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NFL's toughest division?


NFL's toughest division?

The AFC North was widely judged to be the NFLs toughest division in 2011 after three of its teams qualified for the postseason, led by the Ravens, who won the division title.

But as a new season approaches, the Ravens division has been surpassed, according to several analysts at NFL.com.

The writers who contribute to the league web sites Around the League blog were asked to rank the leagues eight divisions from toughest to easiest. When the ballots were added up, the AFC North was rated just the third-toughest division behind the NFC South and NFC North.

In other words, the Ravens division was considered the toughest in the AFC, but not as tough as several NFC divisions.

The fact that the NFC South finished on top is a bit surprising considering what has happened to the New Orleans Saints this offseason, but Cam Newton's emergence creates a trio of contenders, according to the analysts.

As for the second-ranked NFC North, it was judged the best quarterback division with potentially three playoff teams.

The AFC North was called the best defensive division, and it is a help to have the revitalized Cincinnati Bengals challenge the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, according to the analysts.

The remaining five divisions were ranked in the following order 4) NFC East, 5) AFC East, 6) AFC West, 7) NFC West, 8) AFC South.

For those scoring at home, the NFC has three of the leagues four toughest divisions, according to the analysts, with the Ravens division as the only outlier.

If the AFC North succeeds in advancing three teams to the playoffs yet again in 2012, it could be hard to dispute that it remains the NFLs toughest division.

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Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp


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.