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Battle kicks into high gear

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Battle kicks into high gear

As one ball after another flew through the uprights at M&T Bank Stadium during yesterdays public practice, fans could see what the Ravens coaches have known since minicamp: The battle for the kicker job is shaping up to be a doozy.

Veteran Billy Cundiff and rookie Justin Tucker were both superb yesterday in front of roughly 20,000 fans who braved the heat and humidity to watch the Ravens work out. Whether kicking in a drill or in simulated pressure situations, both kickers were up to the task.

Cundiff got things going by making five straight kicks in the field-goal portion of practice, hitting from 30, 41, 48, 54 and 31 yards. Tucker answered, also hitting from 30, 41, 48 and 54. But for Tuckers fifth kick, he backed up and nailed a 63-yarder. Seeing that, Cundiff set up from 65 yards. His kick was online but fell just a few yards short.

Its amazing the competitiveness of these guys, coach John Harbaugh said. Tuck makes the 63 yarder, so Billys like, Put it back to 65. It was a great kick, just a little bit short. Both those kicks were pretty amazing.

Tucker noted that if Cundiff had made the 65-yarder, "I would have asked for the same kick."

I think they just wanted to let us have some fun out there today and let em rip, he said.

The kicks just kept coming during situational drills. At one point, the Ravens simulated being down by two points in the final minute at the opposing 41-yard line. The drive stalled, but then Cundiff hit a 57-yard field goal.

For the next series, the Ravens trailed by two in the final minute. Lest there be any doubt about the pressure, the Ravens used the stadium clock throughout the drill. With three seconds left, Tucker calmly walked out and hit a 48-yarder for the win.

We got of reps for the kickers in game-like situations. Harbaugh said. Both those guys kicked about as well as you can kick.

Tucker made some pressure kicks in his career at Texas, but he admitted being fired up for his first experience in an NFL stadium as an NFL player.

I wanted to treat today like a game day, Tucker said. That was kind of the environment in this locker room before we all headed out. Getting a good number of kicks, and making them all, I couldnt have asked for anything more.

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Despite 4-5 record, Ravens just one game out of final AFC playoff spot

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USA TODAY Sports

Despite 4-5 record, Ravens just one game out of final AFC playoff spot

Their record and performance over the last month may not show it, but the Baltimore Ravens are just one game out of the No. 6 playoff spot in the AFC.

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-1), Los Angeles Chargers (7-2), Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2), New England Patriots (7-3), Houston Texans (6-3), Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-4) and the Miami Dolphins (5-5) all rank above the Ravens. But a win Sunday against the Bengals would push the Ravens to the No. 6 spot as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Titans.

Beside remaining in playoff contention, a win Sunday is crucial considering head coach John Harbaugh's job is in question with his team sitting at 4-5, quarterback Joe Flacco is reportedly dealing with a hip injury and the possibility of rookie Lamar Jackson getting his first NFL start. 

After getting blown out 51-14 by the Saints, the Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday. Cincinnati's defense ranks last in the league in passing yards allowed (313.3) and total yards allowed (454.6). A rested Ravens team will have to take advantage of the first team in the Super Bowl era to surrender 500 yards in three straight games as they are among five teams within one game of the final wildcard spot. 

Getting shutout by the Bengals this season would give Andy Dalton and co. a two-game lead over the Ravens as well as possessing the tiebreaker. 

According to the New York Times' NFL Playoff Simulator, the Ravens have a 27% chance of making the playoffs heading into Week 11 with their remaining strength of schedule ranking at No. 27. 

After hosting the Bengals on Sunday, the Ravens host the Oakland Raiders (1-7), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) and Cleveland Browns (3-6), but have tough road games against the Atlanta Falcons (4-5), Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) and Los Angeles Chargers (7-2). 

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Robert Griffin III nominated for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA

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Robert Griffin III nominated for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III is the team's nominee for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA. 

Presented annually by USAA and the NFL, the award honors a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. 

The Robert Griffin III Foundation supports Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), that helps aid those grieving the death of a loved one who served in the military; Luke's Wings, which united wounded warriors, veterans and heroes with their loved ones; and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, that helps ensure injured veterans and their families are thriving when they return home. 

Griffin III was born in Okinawa, Japan where his parents were stationed as U.S. Army sergeants. The quarterback spent time living in Fort Carson, Colorado, Seoul, Korea and Fort Hood, Texas as a military kid. His family then settled in Cooperas Cove, Texas, an hour drive from Baylor University where Griffin III attended college. 

Finalist for the award will be announced in January. The recipient will be recognized at the NFL Honors award show Saturday, Feb. 2, on the eve of Super Bowl LIII.

RGIII's head coach, John Harbaugh, received the honor in 2013. 

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