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If Ravens clinch Sunday, still lots to play for

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If Ravens clinch Sunday, still lots to play for

As pointed out in Pro Football Talk, five NFL teams can clinch playoff berths this weekend, and the Ravens are one of them. In fact, they are one of four that can clinch a division title.

If the Ravens beat the Steelers and the Bengals lose to the Chargers, Baltimore wins the AFC North with four games remaining to play.

But that certainly doesn’t mean the Ravens would be left with nothing to play for down the stretch. They want to be able to skip the first week of the playoffs, but the Ravens are only one game ahead of two other division leaders, the Broncos and Patriots. However, having beaten New England this season, the Ravens hold the tiebreaker, so they’re actually two games up on the Pats.

The same scenario works in reverse for the Ravens in regard to the Texans, who hold the AFC’s best record — and the home field for the playoffs that goes with it — by one game over Baltimore, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker edge by virtue of their blowout defeat of the Ravens.

So the Ravens need to run the table for the rest of the regular season and hope that somewhere in Houston’s last five games — road matchups against the Titans, Patriots and Colts, home games against the Colts and Vikings — there lie two losses.

Perhaps more than anyone else in the NFL, the Ravens would benefit from hosting playoff games. With the goal of postseason dates at M&T Bank Stadium as a path to the Super Bowl, the Ravens will have plenty of incentive left even if the AFC North is theirs with a month left in the season.

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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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