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Brown: Ravens have talent gap to close in offseason

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Brown: Ravens have talent gap to close in offseason

While the Ravens cleaned out their lockers Monday, the Bengals and Steelers were getting ready for the playoffs.

In the long run, it might be good that the bottom fell out for the Ravens (5-11) this season, because it should force the organization to face reality. The Ravens need to close the talent gap between themselves and the top two teams in the AFC North.

“We’re going to have to look at what we have when this offseason settles down and where we may need a guy or two,” said quarterback Joe Flacco on Monday. “We need to improve, there’s no doubt about it.”

The Bengals have won two straight division titles. They have beaten the Ravens five straight times. They have young playmakers like A. J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill, and Gionvani Bernard. They have an excellent defense which allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season. Even if they keep stumbling in the playoffs, the Bengals figure to be good for some time.

The Steelers have made the playoffs the last two years, and have one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger. As long as Roethlisberger is their quarterback, the Steelers figure to remain Super Bowl contenders. Even with star running back Le’Veon Bell missing most of the season, Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown led a potent attack that topped the AFC in total offense. We know the Ravens swept the Steelers this year, but the Ravens would gladly change places with the Steelers now.

Is it realistic to think the Ravens can get back in the playoffs next year? Yes. They have quality at the three most important spots – general manager Ozzie Newsome, head coach John Harbaugh, and Flacco at quarterback. While that trio isn’t perfect, they are winners, and they have Super Bowl rings to prove it.

Newsome needs to have his best offseason in some time. At the very least, he needs to hit in the draft’s early rounds, and find impact players who can help the Ravens win as rookies. The Ravens weren’t going to the Super Bowl this season, even before the injuries became overwhelming. They need more team speed – playmakers on offense who can strike quickly, and playmakers on defense that can force turnovers and make quarterbacks uncomfortable.

Newsome thought he had his speed wide receiver in rookie Breshad Perriman, but Perriman never played a snap due to his knee injury. Now Newsome needs to find more speed at that position through the draft or free agency, because counting on Perriman alone to bring that element is just too dangerous.

It will be interesting to hear owner Steve Bisciotti’s take when he addresses the media Thursday. But the Ravens can’t expect the Bengals or Steelers to fall back to them in the division. To bounce back in 2016, the Ravens need fewer injuries. But they also need more talent.

RELATED: 4 main points from Flacco's 2015 media exit interview

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Ravens lower concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium ahead of 2018 season

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens lower concession prices at M&T Bank Stadium ahead of 2018 season

Enjoying a game at M&T Bank Stadium just became a little more affordable.

On Thursday, the Ravens introduced their new "Flock Friendly Fare," reducing the price of 21 of their most popular food and beverage items.  

The change comes as the organization focuses on revamping the fan experience in 2018. Fans will see an average of 33 percent in total savings and up to 53 percent savings on a single item.  

"As a lot of you probably know, after every game we survey fans to see how we're doing; what have we done well and what have we not done well. Over the years, one of the biggest criticisms we received was for the gameday concessions prices," Ravens President Dick Cass said on the team's website

Alcoholic beverages were all reduced by $1 with the addition of domestic 12 ounce beer for $5.

Chicken tenders with fries went from $11 to $7, while a slice of pizza went from $8.50 to $6. No single item will cost above $9.

On average, you will now be able to feed a family of four for $44 compared to $66.75 in years past. To see all of the reductions, click the arrow in the post below. 

In 2017, the Atlanta Falcons reduced their concession prices upon opening their brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Ravens, however, are expecting to lose $1.5 million in concession revenue due to the change. 

Introducing our new Flock Friendly Fare!

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Vegas odds against Lamar Jackson starting for Ravens in 2018

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AP Images

Vegas odds against Lamar Jackson starting for Ravens in 2018

Vegas has spoken and they are not optimistic about rookie Lamar Jackson starting under center for the Ravens in 2018.

Bovado, an online gambling site, has set the odds on how the top 2018 rookies will perform and they have Jackson getting 0.5 starts this season.

That number will come as a surprise considering the popular narrative that Lamar Jackson will be the Ravens' starter in no time. The team made it clear they are planning for life after Flacco when they traded back into the first-round of the 2018 draft to select the quarterback out of Louisville at No. 32

Flacco - who is entering his 11th season with the organization - is experiencing a decline in his performance of late, one that can not be put entirely on his shoulders as the team has failed in finding him valuable weapons to throw to. Nonetheless, Flacco's projected 2018 season is very much up in the air and it appears Vegas is betting on the one-time Super Bowl MVP to bounce back. 

However, the Ravens have failed to make the playoffs four of the last five seasons, and if that trend continues into 2018, the rookie could get his shot at flipping the script.

If you're a betting man, it could payoff to bet the over on Jackson. Low risk, seemingly high reward. 

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