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Interesting position battles at Ravens OTAs

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Interesting position battles at Ravens OTAs

The Ravens will have their second open practice of OTA’s on Wednesday afternoon, giving the media another chance to evaluate how the team is shaping up. Here’s an early look at some of the key competitions to watch:
 

Running back

Buck Allen vs. Lorenzo Taliaferro

They’re vying to be the No. 2 back behind Justin Forsett. Allen was a reliable receiver at USC, which could give him an edge. But Taliaferro has a year of experience in the Ravens’ offense. Should be an interesting competition.

Wide receiver

Marlon Brown vs. Breshad Perriman

Other than Steve Smith, which wide receiver will become Joe Flacco’s most trusted target? Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro are among others vying for that role. But Campanaro is currently sidelined with a quadriceps injury and his ability to stay healthy remains an issue. Brown led the Ravens in touchdowns as a rookie in 2013, while Perriman was the Ravens’ first-round pick. Brown and Perriman have a chance to establish a comfort level this spring and summer, working with Flacco in new coordinator Marc Trestman’s system.

Strong safety

Matt Elam vs. Will Hill

HEADLINE - Interesting position battles to watch at OTA's

Free agent pickup Kendrick Lewis is expected to start at free safety, leaving Elam and Hill to vie for the starting spot at strong safety. Elam, a first-round pick in 2013, wants to prove he isn’t a bust. Hill wants to prove the Ravens can depend on him, after his past off-field issues and suspensions. The Ravens hope the competition brings out the best in both, and makes their secondary stronger.
 
Tight end

Crockett Gillmore vs. Maxx Williams
 
Gillmore is the better blocker, with Williams being the more polished receiver. Both will have a role, especially because the Ravens will use some two tight-end sets. Williams could have the biggest impact of any Ravens rookie if he’s a fast learner. Flacco loves throwing to tight ends and last year’s most productive tight end, Owen Daniels, left for the Broncos in free agency. The Ravens also drafted tight end Nick Boyle in the fifth round, and Dennis Pitta is trying to return from his second major hip injury. But at the moment, Williams and Gillmore have the inside track to see the most reps at tight end.

RELATED Veteran journalist ranks Ravens No. 1 in offseason poll

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Ravens' Joe Flacco loses starting QB job to Lamar Jackson

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Ravens' Joe Flacco loses starting QB job to Lamar Jackson

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Joe Flacco has lost his job as Baltimore Ravens starting quarterback and will be the backup Sunday for the first time in his 11-year NFL career.

Flacco is finally healthy after missing the past four games with a right hip injury. The Ravens went 3-1 during his absence under rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, and coach John Harbaugh has decided to stick with the first-round draft pick with Baltimore striving to end a three-year playoff drought.

Harbaugh said Wednesday: "Every decision is based on making us the strongest possible team we can be."

Jackson will start Sunday when the Ravens (7-6) host Tampa Bay (5-8).

The 33-year-old Flacco has been a starter since his rookie season in 2008 and was Super Bowl MVP when the Ravens beat San Francisco to end the 2012 season.

Flacco says: "I'm obviously disappointed I can't be part of this team in the same capacity that I have been for a long time."

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NFL Playoff Picture: Who's currently in and currently out in the AFC heading into Week 15

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NFL Playoff Picture: Who's currently in and currently out in the AFC heading into Week 15

It was a wild Week 14 for the AFC to say the least.

There was the Miami Miracle and the Indianapolis Colts bringing the Houston Texans' nine-game winning streak to a halt.

January football is so close we can almost taste it. Here's where things stand in the AFC as we head into Week 15.

AFC Playoff Standings:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-2, 4-0)

The Baltimore Ravens weren't going to make this easy for the Chiefs, but Patrick Mahomes' ridiculous playmaking couldn't be stopped.

The Chiefs clinched a playoff berth in the 27-24 overtime win and can clinch the AFC West with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers Thursday night. 

Remaining Games: Chargers (10-3), @Seahawks (8-5), Raiders (3-10).

2. New England Patriots (9-4, 3-1)

A crazy 69 yard walk off touchdown from Dolphins' Kenyan Drake put the Patriots two games back of the Chiefs for the one seed and without home field advantage if they face them in the postseason.

Now as they head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers, a bye week in January could be on the line.

Remaining Games: @Steelers (7-5-1), Buffalo (4-9), Jets (4-9)

3. Houston Texans (9-4, 3-2)

The Texans' nine-game win streak came to an end Sunday when Andrew Luck and the Colts earned a 24-21 win in Houston. 

Still two full games up of the Colts and Tennessee Titans in the AFC South, a bye week seems far-fetched as the Patriots hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over them. 

Remaining Games: @Jets (4-9), @Eagles (6-7), Jacksonville (4-9)

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1, 3-1-1)

Sunday was a debacle for the Steelers. Big Ben suffered a rib injury but came back in the fourth to lead his team down the field before kicker Chris Boswell's foot slipped out from underneath of him in what would have been the game-winning field goal. 

The 24-21 loss leaves the Steelers just half a game up of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North as they host the Patriots Sunday and still have to visit the Saints. The division, and the playoffs, aren't a lock for the Steelers.

Remaining Games: Patriots (9-4), @Saints (11-2), Bengals (5-8)

5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-3, 2-2)

After narrowly beating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 Sunday, the Chargers have a short week as they head to Kansas City to face their division rivals on Thursday night.

A win over the Chiefs keeps the AFC West title up for grabs.

Remaining Games: @Chiefs (11-2), Ravens (7-6), @Denver (6-7)

6. Baltimore Ravens (7-6, 2-3)

Ravens-Chiefs was one of the most entertaining games of the 2018 season and proved that Lamar Jackson and the No. 1 overall defense can hang with the best. 

The good news is that they're still half a game back of the Steelers in the AFC North. The bad news is that they're in a four-way race with the Colts, Titans and Dolphins for the final playoff spot.

Three wins to close out the season is crucial. 

Remaining Games: Buccaneers (5-8), @Chargers (10-3), Browns (5-7-1)

In The Hunt:

7. Indianapolis Colts (7-6, 3-2)

Ending the Texans' nine-game win streak on the road is certainly impressive as it kept the Colts' playoff hopes alive.

Their remaining games won't make the road to the playoffs easy, but they do hold the tiebreaker over the Dolphins.

Remaining Games: Cowboys (8-5), Giants (5-8), @Tennessee (7-6)

8. Miami Dolphins (7-6, 4-1)

The Dolphins just continue to surprise us. Their 34-33 win over the Patriots was the highlight of everyone except Patriots fans' Sunday. 

The final playoff spot will be hard to reach as they sit behind the Colts but ahead of the Titans in head-to-head record.

Remaining Games: @Vikings (6-6-1), Jacksonville (4-9), @Bills (4-9)

9. Tennessee Titans (7-6, 3-2)

The Titans earned an AFC win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, but their playoff hopes aren't within close reach.

They are no longer in the sixth playoff spot tiebreaker as they are behind both the Colts and the Dolphins. 

Remaining Games: @Giants (5-8), Redskins (6-7), Colts (7-6)

10. Denver Broncos (6-7, 2-2)

The Broncos lost to the San Francisco 49ers 20-14 Sunday, which some would say is not great for a team trying to wiggle their way into the playoffs.

Remaining Games: Browns (5-7-1), @Raiders (3-10), Chargers (10-3)

11. Cleveland Browns (5-7-1, 2-1-1)

Browns fans have a lot to be excited about as Baker Mayfield is a force and they earned another home win on Sunday against the spiraling Carolina Panthers.

With two division games still to be played, the Browns have a slight chance at the playoffs. Nonetheless, the 2018 season is hopefully the start of a new era for this organization.

Remaining Games: @Broncos (6-7), Bengals (5-8), @Ravens (7-6)

12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-7, 1-3)

Hue Jackson's bad luck continues with the Bengals as the playoffs are nowhere in sight.

Remaining Games: Raiders (3-10), @Browns (5-7-1), @Steelers (7-5-1)

Eliminated: Oakland Raiders (3-10), New York Jets (3-10), Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9) and the Buffalo Bills (4-9)

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