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NFL's toughest division?

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NFL's toughest division?

The AFC North was widely judged to be the NFLs toughest division in 2011 after three of its teams qualified for the postseason, led by the Ravens, who won the division title.

But as a new season approaches, the Ravens division has been surpassed, according to several analysts at NFL.com.

The writers who contribute to the league web sites Around the League blog were asked to rank the leagues eight divisions from toughest to easiest. When the ballots were added up, the AFC North was rated just the third-toughest division behind the NFC South and NFC North.

In other words, the Ravens division was considered the toughest in the AFC, but not as tough as several NFC divisions.

The fact that the NFC South finished on top is a bit surprising considering what has happened to the New Orleans Saints this offseason, but Cam Newton's emergence creates a trio of contenders, according to the analysts.

As for the second-ranked NFC North, it was judged the best quarterback division with potentially three playoff teams.

The AFC North was called the best defensive division, and it is a help to have the revitalized Cincinnati Bengals challenge the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, according to the analysts.

The remaining five divisions were ranked in the following order 4) NFC East, 5) AFC East, 6) AFC West, 7) NFC West, 8) AFC South.

For those scoring at home, the NFC has three of the leagues four toughest divisions, according to the analysts, with the Ravens division as the only outlier.

If the AFC North succeeds in advancing three teams to the playoffs yet again in 2012, it could be hard to dispute that it remains the NFLs toughest division.

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Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

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USA Today Sports

Fellow dance student of Ravens' Alex Collins fatally shot in Florida school shooting

On Wednesday, February 14, a horrific school shooting claimed the lives of 17 innocent people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

The tragic event impacted people far and wide, and hit especially close to home for Ravens running back Alex Collins.

The former Arkansas star was born in Plantation, Fla., a suburb of Fort Lauderdale and went to high school just 15 miles south of Douglas High School. 

In the offseason, Collins took Irish dancing lessons to improve his footwork, and following the act of terror, the Ravens' tailback learned that one of his dance partners had been killed in the mass shooting.

17-year-old Cara Loughran attended The Drake school of Irish Dance with Collins in addition to two other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and was fatally shot by the gunman on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins took to his Twitter account to issue this heartfelt message.

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“The school shooting yesterday hit home,” Collins wrote.

“We received confirmation a few hours ago we lost one of the girls, Cara Loughran. Two other girls saw and experienced unspeakable tragedy. My heart goes out to these girls, all their families and their teacher Chrissy.”

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Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Ravens to take on Chicago Bears in Hall of Fame game

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears will launch the NFL's 99th season by playing in the annual Hall of Fame game on Aug. 2.

The Ravens' first appearance in the Hall of Fame game, which launches the league's 2018 Enshrinement Week. Former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis is among the inductees, along with former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Lewis, who played 17 seasons with the Ravens, and Urlacher, who played all of his 13 seasons with Chicago, both were elected on the first ballot.

Lewis joins Jonathan Ogden as the only Ravens in the Hall of Fame. Both were selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1996 draft.

The other members of the Class of 2018 include Bobby Beathard, Robert Brazile, Brian Dawkins, Jerry Kramer, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. All will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 4.

This will be the record-tying fifth time that the Bears will play in the Hall of Fame game. They won the previous four, most recently 27-24 over Miami in 2005.

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