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Five Ravens thoughts heading into last eight games

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Five Ravens thoughts heading into last eight games

Here are five thoughts on the second half of the Ravens’ season, which begins Sunday (1 p.m.) against the Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium.

1. It’s way too early to talk about the Ravens (2-6) making a second-half charge.

They haven’t won two games in a row. They’ve only won once at home. Their defense is ranked 29th in the NFL against the pass. Let’s see the Ravens do this. Beat the Jaguars (2-6) on Sunday, which would give the Ravens two straight wins. Beat the Rams the following week, which would give the Ravens three straight wins at home. If they do that, we can say the Ravens are on the upswing. If they can’t, they’re not ready to make a move.

2. With Steve Smith injured, even more will be learned about the Ravens’ other receivers.

Whether or not Smith retires, or Breshad Perriman plays this season, the Ravens will be looking to upgrade the wide receiver position heading into 2016. Every receiver during the final eight games will have an opportunity to strengthen, or damage, their chance of staying around next season.

3. Will giving up big plays continue to be a big problem for the Ravens’ secondary?

The Jaguars have two quality receivers in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson. We’ll see if the Ravens’ secondary can avoid the kind of glaring mistakes that hurt them badly over the first eight games. The Ravens won’t win consistently unless they reduce the big plays against them.

4. Joe Flacco will really need his young tight ends.

We know for sure that Dennis Pitta isn’t coming back this year. However, second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore already has three touchdown grabs, and rookies Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams have 23 catches between them. If all three tight ends continue to make plays, it will help relieve the pressure of losing Smith.

5. Special teams could help the Ravens steal a win or two.

Sam Koch is having a Pro Bowl caliber year as a punter, and Justin Tucker is a proven clutch kicker with great range.  The Ravens don’t have the firepower to blow teams out. But if they give Tucker a few more chances to seal victories, they’ll like the results.

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Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

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USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

Football is back in session for the Ravens.

Their rookies are set to report to the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills, Md Wednesday. Veterans report next Wednesday, the 18th.

The team is reporting to training camp a bit earlier than most NFL teams. Due to Ray Lewis being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 4 in Canton, Oh, the Ravens will face the Chicago Bears in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2. Teams participating are eligible to begin training camp earlier.

This rookie class is already generating national attention. While the Ravens stand by Joe Flacco as their QB1, first-round pick Lamar Jackson could cause a shakeup at some point during the season. And when it comes to much-needed offensive help, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews could begin to provide relief. 

Third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. begins his journey with the Ravens in a more sentimental fashion. His father, Orlando "Zeus" Brown, also played tackle for the Ravens from 1996-98 and then again from 2003-05. Brown passed away in 2011. 

Stay with NBC Sports Washington throughout the next several weeks as we keep a close eye on the Ravens' preseason. 

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Early 2018 NFL playoff odds have Ravens in similar situation

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Early 2018 NFL playoff odds have Ravens in similar situation

There's only six months until the NFL playoffs and we've got no time to waste.

OK, maybe we're getting a little ahead of ourselves but online betting site, Oddshark, released their early 2018 NFL playoff odds and the Ravens are in a similar situation as previous years.

The Ravens are sitting at +135 — tied for 13th with the San Francisco 49ers — for the best odds to play January football. This would place them in the seventh seed among AFC teams and just outside contention.

The Patriots (-1500), Steelers (-550), Chargers (-145), Jaguars (-140), Texans (-135), and Chiefs (+120) are seeded above them respectively. 

During the 2017 season, the Ravens were constantly in the hunt for the fifth or sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture. Several weeks ahead of training camp, Vegas is predicting that to be the case in 2018.

Playoff odds in July mean nothing, but considering their offseason changes, the Ravens' 2018 season should bring positive change.

They added weapons for Joe Flacco in free agents Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown, and drafted tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews.

Then there was the late first-round draft pick of QB Lamar Jackson. Flacco remains the starter for now, but it will be interesting to see if that changes midway through the season or if they get them both on the field at the same time.

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