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Broncos to face toughest test since October

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Broncos to face toughest test since October

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Though nobody would discount an eight-game winning streak in the NFL, there's a not-so-little secret about the one Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are currently enjoying.

Quite simply, they haven't played anyone all that good since the streak started back in October.

Nobody the Broncos have beaten over their longest winning streak since the 1998 Super Bowl season would be in the playoffs if they started today. Only one - Cincinnati at 7-6 - currently has a winning record.

All of which adds yet another layer of intrigue to this week's game at Baltimore.

``This is the type of team that we will have to play in the playoffs,'' linebacker Von Miller said. ``This is the type of team that has been very successful in the past. ... And this is the type of team that we have to play to gauge ourselves and see what type of team we are.''

Not only will the game against the Ravens (9-4) go a long way toward determining where the Broncos (10-3), currently seeded third, land in the hunt for a first-round bye in the playoffs, it will, true to Miller's words, give them a true litmus test on a number of issues. Among them:

-How well do they stack up against one of the league's best teams with what is traditionally one of its best defenses that could be getting linebacker Ray Lewis back in the lineup this week?

-How well can they play outdoors, on the road in inclement weather, which is where the playoffs could conceivably take them? (Sunday's forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain.)

``You have to play the best teams at the end,'' cornerback Chris Harris said. ``So it's good to play the best teams early, so by the time you get to the playoffs, you've had a good test.''

That ``good test,'' some might say, has been lacking during this eight-game winning streak, which has, to Denver's credit, included road wins against San Diego, Cincinnati, Carolina, Kansas City and Oakland. Also during that time, the Broncos have captured the AFC West. They've outscored teams by an average of 30-18. Manning has thrown for 2,313 yards and 19 scores over the eight games and has surpassed either John Elway or Dan Marino, or both, for second place on the NFL all-time list for completions, touchdown passes and wins for a starting quarterback.

Through it all, the Broncos have stuck to the mantra that they take them one at a time with the goal of playing their best football come December.

But given the strength of their competition during the streak - combined .356 winning percentage - and some of the flaws they've shown, it's hard to tell if they're doing that.

For instance, in last week's 26-13 win over Oakland, the Broncos settled for four field goals, all of them after moving inside the Raiders 20-yard line. Denver is ranked 10th this season in scoring touchdowns after getting inside the opponent's 20, but the offense has failed to reach the end zone in nine of its last 15 trips. Baltimore's defense leads the league by only allowing 18 touchdowns on opposing offenses' 45 trips inside the 20.

``Every week's a new experience, so we'll have the same type practices and we'll work those situations into our practices as we prepare for them and look at what they do,'' coach John Fox said. ``Like always, it's who executes the best.''

Denver's running game, now led by Knowshon Moreno after Willis McGahee's knee injury, averages 3.8 yards a carry, only 25th in the league. It's a statistic that, presumably, the team would like to improve on, given the possibility of a road playoff game in New England, or maybe a return trip to Baltimore.

``I think any quarterback would tell you that his best friend is a good running game, and that's something that we continue to emphasize and focus on,'' Manning said. ``It's a tough bunch against the run, starting in Baltimore, but we feel it's important, like all season, to be balanced, and that's our goal every single week.''

Much is being made this week of Manning's 6-0 record vs. the Ravens since 2002 compared to Denver's 0-4 lifetime record in games at Baltimore since the Ravens arrived.

Manning, not surprisingly, wants very little to do with trying to explain either trend.

``I can't speak to the past,'' he said. ``All I know is, we're going on the road, playing an excellent team.''

Earlier in the week, Fox said the game would be a ``measuring stick.''

Manning didn't want to go there, either. Neither did another former Raven, defensive lineman Justin Bannan, who knows there are two more regular-season games, both at home, after the team returns from Baltimore. Those opponents: Cleveland and Kansas City, combined record 7-19.

``We could beat them this weekend, and the next week we could lose and you could pile on us next weekend,'' Bannan said.

Notes: QB Peyton Manning leads in fan balloting for the Pro Bowl with 823,372 votes, more than 75,000 ahead of Patriots QB Tom Brady. Voting goes through next Monday. ... WR Demaryius Thomas, who missed part of last week's Raiders game with a shoulder injury, participated fully in practice Wednesday. LB Wesley Woodyard (ankle) was limited. ... Broncos have lost last two games in Baltimore (2009, 2010) by combined score of 61-24. ... Ranked fourth in offense and defense, Broncos are only team in NFL in top five in both categories this week.

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Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

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USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Receiver Willie Snead has bid farewell to the Saints, which means New Orleans apparently won't match the contract the Baltimore Ravens offered the restricted free agent.

Eager to add a target for quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens on Friday offered Snead a two-year, $10.4 million contract. The Saints had five days to match the deal. Snead indicated Monday on Twitter that he's headed out of New Orleans.

Snead tweeted: "What I'm going to miss most is the men in the locker room & the coaches."

He added: "Even though I'm sad to go, I'm even more excited for the next chapter in my life. I can't wait to strap it on as a Baltimore Raven."

Hampered by a three-game suspension and a hamstring injury, Snead was limited to eight catches for 92 yards last year.

In 2015, he had 69 receptions for 984 yards. He caught 72 passes for 895 yards in 2016.

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2018 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup 6.0: The final countdown

2018 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup 6.0: The final countdown

After months and months of talk and a lot of predictions, the 2018 NFL Draft is finally here.

On Thursday, Ozzie Newsome and Co. will enter the draft room prepared for battle. A lot of questions await them and most of them can not be answered until the ten minutes leading up to their pick. 

Even with the additions of Michael CrabtreeJohn Brown and Willie Snead, will the Ravens continue to add to their wide receiver corps? 

Will they trade down and scoop up a tight end or will they address the offensive line and snag Mike McGlinchey? 

All of our questions will be answered in no time, but for now, sit back and enjoy the wild ride that is the first-round of the NFL Draft. 

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig (Link) Charley Casserly (Link

— Mike McGlinchey (OL)

With the exit of Ryan Jensen, the Ravens are now in need of an offensive lineman. 

At the combine, McGlinchey put up 24 reps on the bench press, had a 28.5 inch vertical and a 105 inch broad jump. 

"The offense lacks playmakers which is why wide receivers Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore work," Standing says. "Right tackle also in play. McGlinchey seems to have moved ahead of the other tackle prospects."

ESPN's Mel Kiper (Link) CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso (Link) Sporting News (Link) Rotoworld (Link

— Calvin Ridley (WR)

Ridley is one of the few wideouts in this draft projected to go in the first-round. While his combine performance didn't help his stock, running a 4.43 40-yard dash, recording a 31-inch vertical, a 110-inch broad jump and a 6.88-second 3-cone drill, many are still predicting he lands with the Ravens or somewhere in the first-round. 

"Ridley underwhelmed at the combine, but his college tape shows a player who’s nearly uncoverable," Kiper says. "I’m going to trust the tape in this case and still make him my top-ranked wideout (Maryland’s D.J. Moore is not far behind). Baltimore could also target an offensive tackle at pick No. 16."

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah (Link)

— Hayden Hurst (TE) 

The Ravens haven't addressed their need at tight end in free agency and the reason could be because they're holding out for the draft. 

QB Joe Flacco has a tendency to favor Ravens tight ends and Hayden Hurst out of South Carolina is being considered by many the top TE in this draft. 

The ex-minor league baseball pitcher, who walked on at South Carolina at 21-years old, is being compared to Dallas Clark. "His fearless play demeanor combined with size, strength and athleticism make him a well-rounded prospect with the versatility to line up all over the field," according to his draft profile

Jeremiah, who once was a scout for the Ravens, predicts they will be looking to draft back for Hurst.

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks (Link) 

— Lamar Jackson (QB) 

It was reported last week that Jackson would be making a visit to the Ravens' facility during the final week of pre-draft visits, and with Joe Flacco nearing the end of his contract, now could be the time to find his successor. Jackson provides support on the ground and in the air, but scouts are concerned about his accuarcy. 

"With Joe Flacco viewed as a potential salary cap casualty in 2019, the Ravens can secure their future QB by grabbing Jackson if he is available at No. 16," Brooks says. "Remember, Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and assistant head coach Greg Roman have experience nurturing athletic quarterbacks into dynamic playmakers (see Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick), so the Ravens could be the perfect fit for the 2016 Heisman winner."

Bleacher Report (Link

— Mike Gesicki (TE) 

Gesicki is another tight end option for the Ravens. Standing tall at 6' 5", Gesicki ran a 4.54 40-yard dash and recorded a 41.5 vertical jump at the combine. He also ended his time at Penn State as their tight end leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. 

His draft profile describes him as a "pass-catcher who can get open and has the ball skills to win against linebackers and safeties." Scouts are also comparing him to the likes of Jimmy Graham. 

Land of 10 (Link

— Christian Kirk (WR)

Kirk provides another wide receiver option if Ridley is gone at 16, even though his draft profile has him projected in Rounds 2-3. 

The 5-10, 201-pound junior finished with 71 receptions, 919 yards and 10 touchdowns at Texas A&M.

At the combine, Kirk ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, recorded a 35.5 vertical jump and a 7.09 second 3-cone drill. 

His bottom line states, "Kirk is a well-built, mentally tough slot target whose game is built around pace more than explosiveness. His lack of speed and length make him less likely to impact games down the field, but his footwork, route tempo and hands should give him an opportunity to find catches underneath. Kirk's ability to help in the return game is a plus, but the difference between average and good as a receiver could depend on finding the right fit."

CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson (Link)

— D.J. Moore (WR)

As the draft has slowly approached, Maryland's D.J. Moore has risen in the rankings. 

Many pundits are ranking him narrowly behind Alabama's Calvin Ridley as the top WR in the draft. 

The 6'0"  junior ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, a 6.95 3-cone drill and recorded a 39.5 vertical jump. 

"Moore is bigger than former Terrapin wideout Stefon Diggs, but their playing style and athletic ability while at Maryland are similar," states his draft profile.

"Moore doesn't have the height and length teams look for outside and may become a full-time option from the slot. He clearly has the short-area quickness and talent after the catch to handle those duties, but his route-running needs to become more focused and fast to unlock his potential. Teams are high on Moore's potential and believe he has the talent and traits to become a good WR2 in the league."

Moore is being compared to the likes of Pierre Garçon. 

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