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Baltimore Ravens focused on AFC North title

By
Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) greets fans after an NFL game against the Oakland Raiders on November 25 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) greets fans after an NFL game against the Oakland Raiders on November 25 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- All of the pieces have fallen into place for the Baltimore Ravens to end their three-year playoff drought.

Baltimore (9-6) simply needs to defeat the Cleveland Browns (7-7-1) in Week 17 to win the AFC North for the first time since 2012 and secure a spot in the postseason.

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"It's not the top goal, but it's definitely the first goal -- we set it every year -- to win the division, to be division champions, and we're playing a championship game on Sunday," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. "That's what you work for. That's what we put all that time in for, and in order to do that, we've had to weather some storms and overcome some challenges and win some games, and guys have done a great job.

"We appreciate where we're at. This is the opportunity that we wanted, and now it's ours to go get."

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The Ravens paved their way with an impressive 22-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday. The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1) then lost to the New Orleans Saints and dropped out of the playoff picture.

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Cleveland secured a 12-9 overtime victory over Baltimore in Week 5. As a result, Harbaugh is solely focused on containing Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield as opposed to the various playoff scenarios.

"He's going to try to make plays," Harbaugh said about Mayfield. "He's certainly not afraid to push the ball in there. They're almost like a touchdown, check-down type of team. They take shots all the time."

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The Ravens have won five of their last six games with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the offense. The former Heisman Trophy winner has revitalized the team's running attack, which is second behind Seattle with 147 yards per game.

Jackson also has gotten better at throwing the ball -- he completed a 68-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass to fellow rookie Mark Andrews against the Chargers. The playoff implications over the past six games have not been the least bit daunting for the first-round pick.

"I'm used to playing on big stages, people doubt us and stuff like that and it's my job to go prove them wrong in football," Jackson said.

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The Ravens also have the league's No. 1 defense and will pose a serious challenge for any opponent in the postseason. The key for the Ravens is to secure that berth.

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"Anyone has a chance," Ravens safety Eric Weddle said. "If we get in the tournament, we have as good a shot as anybody. I know for a fact no one wants to see us. I know that."

NOTES:

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TE Nick Boyle was able to play Week 16 against the Chargers after he suffered a concussion the previous game against the Atlanta Falcons. Boyle played 39 snaps and caught two passes for 15 yards. He had been listed as questionable.

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LB Matthew Judon overcame a knee injury and played 48 snaps against the Chargers. He suffered his left knee injury Week 15 against the Falcons. Judon finished with one tackle against Los Angeles.

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LG Alex Lewis (shoulder) missed his third consecutive game in Week 16 against the Chargers. James Hurst got the start and shared reps with rookie Bradley Bozeman. Lewis has struggled with injury over his three-year career.

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RB Ty Montgomery was active in Week 16 against the Chargers after he was a healthy scratch the previous week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He served as the third running back behind Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon and did not have a carry over 11 snaps.

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