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Harbaugh won't let Ravens coast into playoffs

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Harbaugh won't let Ravens coast into playoffs

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Now that they've finally wrapped up another AFC North crown, the Baltimore Ravens intend to get healthy, close out the regular season with a win and take some momentum into the playoffs.

Baltimore (10-5) snapped a three-game skid and clinched its second straight division title Sunday with a 33-14 rout of the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. No matter what happens in this Sunday's finale against Cincinnati, the Ravens will host a first-round playoff game on Jan. 5 or 6.

But coach John Harbaugh won't let Baltimore coast into the postseason. After watching Baltimore click in all phases against the Giants, he's looking for an encore against the Bengals.

``That's how you improve, that's how you get you better,'' Harbaugh said Monday. ``Momentum, sure it's a good word. What does that mean exactly? It means that we're improving. The idea is we have plenty of things to work on, and we've got to continue to improve to be the best we can in the playoffs. This week is an opportunity to do that.''

If Baltimore wins and New England loses to Miami, the Ravens get a No. 3 seed and open the postseason against Cincinnati. Harbaugh said he knows all the possibilities - and doesn't really care.

``We kind of understand what has to happen all across the board as far as where that could shake out on Sunday,'' he said. ``But there's no way to say for sure what's going to happen, so we'll just have to see how it plays out.''

If the game is blowout, Harbaugh will consider removing some of his starters. But he's not counting on that happening.

``The biggest thing is that you can't play this game at half speed. Our guys are going to play the game full speed to win,'' he said.

The Ravens are 4-3 on the road, so this could serve as a tuneup for potential games at New England, Denver or Houston.

``It's a plus for us, an opportunity to go play on the road like this in a real tough environment,'' Harbaugh said. ``It's a rivalry game, it's in the division. These two teams play it out pretty good every single time. So yeah, it'll help us build up our callouses a little bit for the playoffs.''

Prior to Sunday's win over New York, the Ravens appeared to be regressing after a 9-2 start. Their losing streak began with three-point losses to both Pittsburgh and Washington and ended with a 34-17 embarrassment at home against Denver.

Against the Giants, however, the Ravens scored touchdowns on their first two possessions, led by 17 at halftime and never let New York back into it.

``We've been practicing really well throughout the course of the last four weeks,'' Harbaugh said. ``At some point in time it's going to show itself on the field on game day. It was our best overall performance, I think. It was the best we've done at putting all three phases together and playing well. We blocked, we tackled, our playmakers made plays. We didn't turn the ball over. We didn't do the things that cost us and hurt us like we did in the other three games.''

Quarterback Joe Flacco, who had six turnovers during the losing streak, threw for 309 yards and didn't give the ball away once. If he and the Ravens play like that in the postseason, Baltimore will be dangerous.

``I said last week we're going to see what kind of team we are. We believe we're this kind of team,'' Flacco said after the Ravens' dominating performance. ``We're really going to see if we are. I think that we showed ourselves and we showed people that we are that kind of team. We're here to stay, and we just have to do all we can to get better, to play like this, and even get better than this throughout the remaining weeks.''

One reason for the Ravens to give their all this Sunday is that it's another chance for the offense to get in sync with coordinator Jim Caldwell, who replaced the fired Cam Cameron two weeks ago. The Baltimore attack sputtered against Denver in its first foray under Caldwell, then racked up 533 yards against New York.

``That's the way we can play,'' said wide receiver Torrey Smith, who returned from a concussion.

Baltimore won't have linebacker Ray Lewis (torn triceps) against the Bengals because Harbaugh wants to give the 17-year veteran more time to recover from an injury that has kept him sidelined since Oct. 14.

But the Ravens hope to have back safety Bernard Pollard, who's missed two straight weeks with a chest injury, and receiver Anquan Boldin, who left with a bruised shoulder in the second half against New York.

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Ravens reportedly sign defensive lineman Derek Wolfe

Ravens reportedly sign defensive lineman Derek Wolfe

The Ravens, just a day after Michael Brockers’ signing fell through, have reportedly found their replacement. 

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have signed defensive lineman Derek Wolfe to a one-year deal worth $6 million.

The 30-year-old defensive lineman had a career-high seven sacks last season in just 12 games. But the biggest knock on Wolfe is his health, as he’s played just 16 games three times in his career and just once in the last five seasons.

Wolfe figures to slot in alongside Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams on the Ravens’ starting defensive front. He’ll be backed up by Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis, too. 

Over his career, Wolfe has totaled 299 career tackles with a career-high 51 in 2016. Last season, 12 quarterback hits to go along with his seven sacks. 

A second-round pick by the Broncos in 2012, Wolfe was productive for the Broncos and helped them win a Super Bowl in 2016 over the Panthers. 

If Wolfe can stay healthy, the Ravens seem to have filled out their defensive line rather nicely after the blow of losing Brockers. 

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The Ravens didn’t sign Michael Brockers — now what?

The Ravens didn’t sign Michael Brockers — now what?

Earlier this week, the Ravens touted their defensive line as the most improved position group through the first wave of free agency. They even felt comfortable enough to trade rotational piece Chris Wormley to the Steelers. 

Now, the defensive line has more questions than answers. 

The team confirmed early Friday morning, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic originally reported, they were unable to come to a deal with defensive lineman Michael Brockers over concerns because of a physical. More specifically, there were concerns over the status of Brockers’ left ankle.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ravens team doctors were unable to examine Brockers themselves and instead had to rely on the work of independent doctors. 

During a conference call with reporters Thursday, new acquisition Calais Campbell said he had to go to the Mayo Clinic to receive his physical. He called the process tricky. 

Brockers quickly signed a very similar deal to the one he signed with Baltimore to stay in Los Angeles with the Rams just hours after the Ravens deal fell through. His new deal is a three-year deal worth $31.5 million. 

So now, the Ravens are left with the difficult reality that a handful of potential targets are no longer viable options due to the first wave of defensive linemen having signed elsewhere. They also shipped off Wormley and a 2021 seventh-round pick for a 2021 fifth-round pick, further depleting the defensive line. 

Michael Pierce, a talented run-stopping defender, left during free agency to sign with the Vikings, too. 

Baltimore now has Campbell, Brandon Williams, Justin Ellis, Jihad Ward and Daylon Mack on the depth chart at defensive line. Not only do the Ravens need more depth at the position, they also need another starter. 

While the Ravens have the 28th pick in the draft, including seven picks in the first four rounds, the front seven’s needs now have been thrust into the spotlight. Before, an argument could’ve been made that the Ravens should devote resources elsewhere: inside linebacker, interior offensive line, wide receiver, or perhaps an edge rusher. 

Now, the defensive line, and front seven as a whole, is once again the team’s biggest need. While it’s not necessary to address in the first round specifically, the Ravens are now almost guaranteed to make a handful of picks in the front seven for next month’s draft. 

The Ravens could dip their toes into the free agent market once again with their newfound cap space and make a run at a few veterans still left on the market. They could also go after an edge player, or an inside linebacker instead, to help cover up an additional need before the draft. 

The Ravens had a plan entering free agency, and quite simply, it went as well as they expected. 

Now, though, the Ravens are left with a questionable physical and a handful of questions to answer about the future of the defensive line.

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