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Here come the big boys

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Here come the big boys

The records are gaudy. The star power is high.

Here come the NFL's big boys.

Denver, Atlanta, New England and San Francisco host divisional playoff games this weekend. They're a combined 49-14-1, and their rosters are filled with such headline grabbers as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tony Gonzalez and Patrick Willis.

Their home-field advantages could be formidable, too. The Broncos, who have won 11 straight games, and Falcons each went 7-1; the 49ers were 6-1-1 and the Patriots 6-2.

None of which makes the Ravens, Seahawks, Texans or Packers quake in their cleats.

``That's not in my mind at all going up to Denver,'' said the Ravens' Joe Flacco, the only quarterback to win a playoff game in his first five seasons. ``We feel confident, and I think we should.''

Baltimore at Denver opens the weekend's action, followed by Green Bay at San Francisco on Saturday night.

Sunday, Seattle is at Atlanta, then Houston goes to New England.

Ravens (11-6) at Broncos (13-3)

For all those impressive numbers, here's a baffling one: four-time league Manning is a mere 9-10 in postseason games. Those wins and losses were compiled with the Colts, with whom he never had a defense like the one the Broncos possess.

That defense made a big difference when Denver won 34-17 at Baltimore in Week 15. A 98-yard interception return by Chris Harris at the end of the first half turned it into a rout.

``I really haven't made a whole lot of comparisons, but our defense has been outstanding all year,'' Manning said. ``Our offense has fed off of our defense. I think that's one of the best things this team has done. If the offense was in a rut, defense picked us up. The defense was bending a little bit, the offense picked them up. That's what you've got to have, to me, as a team.''

The Manning-Ray Lewis matchups through the years have been intriguing, and this will be the final one. Baltimore's emotional leader announced his retirement days before he had 13 tackles in his last home game, a 24-9 wild-card victory over Indianapolis.

``They are always classic,'' Lewis said. ``It's just one of those chess matches. He knows me very well. I know him very well. ... But at the end of the day, it's not about me and me and Peyton. It's about their team against our team. I love our team right now.''

Packers (12-5) at 49ers (11-4-1)

Another rematch, but from so long ago: San Francisco won 30-22 in the opener, at Lambeau Field.

The Packers have the edge in this postseason series, 4-1. They would seem to have the edge on offense with top-rated passer Aaron Rodgers and a deep crew of receivers.

And the Niners would have the advantage on defense, having yielded 63 fewer points in the regular season.

A key will be whether Green Bay, which beat Minnesota 24-10 last week, can protect Rodgers after allowing 51 sacks. The 49ers' Aldon Smith had 19 1-2 himself.

``We understand that it's going to be up to us to keep Aaron clean, let him make some plays back there in the pocket,'' left guard T.J Lang said. ``That's going to be a huge factor in how this game turns out.''

Seahawks (12-5) at Falcons (13-3)

Those road woes that plagued the Seahawks can be forgotten. They've won three in a row away from home, including the 24-14 wild-card victory at Washington that was their first on the road in the playoffs since 1983.

With six straight wins overall, they're a confident bunch as they head to the Georgia Dome.

``We've grown and become more together and more in tune with our QB and what he can do and all that,'' Carroll said, referring to rookie Russell Wilson. ``We're a pretty hard team to beat right now.''

Atlanta has been easy to beat in its last three playoff appearances, something quarterback Matt Ryan dismisses as a factor for this game.

``We've proven we can go out there and be successful. You have to buy into that. You have to believe in that. I feel more comfortable with the guys around me.''

Texans (13-4) at Patriots (12-4)

Yet another rematch, this from Dec. 10 when the Texans flopped in Foxborough, 42-10. That was the beginning of a fade in which they dropped three of four and sank from top AFC seed to No. 3.

Houston recovered somewhat last week in a 19-13 wild-card victory over Cincinnati. This is a much tougher task.

``If you want to move on, you've got to bring a sense of attitude and nastiness with you to go out and dominate your opponent on every play,'' said QB Matt Schaub, who got his first postseason win last week.

Tom Brady has 16 postseason wins and needs one win to break a tie with Joe Montana.

``He's won a lot of regular-season games, won a lot of playoff games,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ``What he does on a day-to-day basis, how he performs on the practice field, how he performs in games - whether they're preseason, regular season, postseason, whatever it is - he's pretty consistent. I think you see that during the week, so it shows up on Sunday.''

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign Robert Griffin III to 2-year deal

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Baltimore Ravens re-sign Robert Griffin III to 2-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have found their backup to Lamar Jackson. The team announced Thursday they are planning on re-signing Robert Griffin III to a two-year contract pending a physical. 

Griffin III made his return to the NFL in 2018 when Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens surprisingly signed the QB to a one-year, $1 million deal.

Behind Joe Flacco and Jackson, the Ravens chose to keep three QBs on their 53-man roster in case something were to happen to Flacco and Jackson hadn't fully developed to their liking. One of those fears did come true and Griffin III provided the Ravens with a valuable insurance policy.

The 29-year-old appeared in three games for the Ravens, completing 2-of-6 passes for 21 yards. 

With Flacco now the starting QB for the Broncos and the Ravens viewing Jackson as their long-term signal caller, re-signing Griffin III as their No. 2 makes a ton of sense for both the QB and the Ravens. 

"I feel like I have a good grasp of what this team is trying to do," Griffin III said back in January. "I would love to help Lamar [Jackson] continue to develop and also be available and ready to play."

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup: Post-NFL Combine and free agency edition

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2019 NFL Mock Draft Ravens Roundup: Post-NFL Combine and free agency edition

The NFL Combine has come and gone and free agency frenzy has taken place.

The Ravens saw defensive veterans exit in free agency while welcoming Mark Ingram, Earl Thomas and Justin Bethel to Baltimore.

How has the combine and free agency affected the Ravens' draft board?

NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig: OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State

Standing at 6-foot-5, 312 pounds, Risner's draft profile notes that he "has the necessary tools to get guys blocked on the NFL level."

Risner could serve as a good rookie backup on the Ravens' O-line. 

Bleacher Report: LB Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech

The Ravens are in desperate need on defense after losing Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith in free agency.

Ferguson, who holds the NCAA all-time record for career sacks with 45, has been compared to Khalil Mack. 

"The question, as it was with Mack, is whether Ferguson's skills will translate to the pros," Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox says. "This means there is some risk involved, but the allure of adding a potential premier pass-rusher this late in Round 1 could be too tough to pass up."

Mel Kiper: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama 

The addition of Mark Ingram may change Kiper's mind on the Ravens taking a back in the first-round. 

Jacobs' draft profile overview states, "Jacobs runs with good bend, vision and burst, and he proved to be an effective pass-catcher out of the backfield or from the slot. He will probe and burst, but he could become more elusive with better tempo as a runner. Jacobs is a decisive runner with outstanding one-cut talent to become a bellcow lead back." 

Maybe the Ravens see Jacobs as their long-term running back? 

SB Nation: WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss

The Ravens cut Michael Crabtree after just one year with the team and John Brown signed with the Bills in free agency. Now they're left with several holes to fill at receiver, a position the Ravens have lacked depth at for several seasons.

After posting a 4.33 40-yard dash, Metcalf's combine profile has him projected as an instant starter.

NFL.com's Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State

Here's a new addition to the roundup. 

Davis describes Campbell as, "extremely fast and elusive. A perfect match for the run-first Ravens, who now have a true deep threat to throw it to over the heads of safeties creeping to the LOS to help slow down RB Mark Ingram and QB Lamar Jackson."

Jeremiah agrees saying, "Campbell had an outstanding workout at the combine, displaying mature route-running skills."

CBS Sports.com: WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

      Another wide receiver in the mix, pundits questioned whether or not he was athletic enough to be a first-round pick prior to the combine. 

      Harry posted a 4.53 40-yard dash, 27 reps on the bench press, a 38.5 inch vertical and 122 inches on the broad jump.  Analyst describe the receiver as a "back-shoulder boss who thrives with contested catch opportunities outside the numbers but lacks explosive traits."

      Sporting News: WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

      We've got a trend going here.

      Brown, who stands at 5-foot-9 and 166 pounds, has an "elite vertical speed and great quickness coming in and out of routes," according to Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer. Brown missed the Sooners' Pro Day and the combine after undergoing Lisfranc surgery. However, he is expected to be ready to go come offseason programs.

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