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Oh the drama! Super Ads go epic

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Oh the drama! Super Ads go epic

NEW YORK (AP) Super Bowl ads this year morphed into mini soap operas.

Dwayne ``The Rock'' Johnson shrugged off aliens so he could get more milk for his kids in a Super Bowl spot for the Milk Processor Education Program. Anheuser-Busch's commercial told the story of a Clydesdale colt growing up and returning to his owner for a heartfelt hug years later. And a Jeep ad portrayed the trials and triumphs of people waiting for the return of their family members.

The reason for all the drama off the field? With 30-second spots going for as much as $4 million and more than 111 million viewers expected to tune in, marketers are constantly looking for ways to make their ads stand out. And it's increasingly difficult to captivate viewers with short-form plots involving babies, celebrities, sex and humor - unless there's a compelling story attached.

``A lot of advertisers are running long commercials to tell these stories that engage people often in a very emotional way,'' said Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. ``These spots that tell stories really stand out in the clutter.''

TEAR-JERKING MINI EPICS

Chrysler started the long-format commercial trend last year, with a two-minute spot starring Clint Eastwood that became very popular.

This year, Chrysler led the trend again with its two-minute salute to troops and their families. The ad featured Oprah Winfrey reading a letter from the Jeep brand to encourage families to stay hopeful.

Wendy Ochoa, a high school teacher who lives in Novi, Mich., said the ad was very emotional. ``It tugs on your heartstrings,'' Ochoa, 44, said. ``How can it not?''

Anheuser-Busch also pulled at heartstrings with a spot about a Clydesdale colt growing up and moving away from his farm and his trainer who raised him from birth. Years later, the trainer drives to Chicago to see the horse in a parade. The horse spots his trainer and gallops toward him, nuzzling him fondly as the trainer hugs him.

``The Budweiser commercial with the Clydesdale made me cry,'' said Wendy Ponzo, 49, who was watching the game in Pont Pleasant, N.J.

USER-INSPIRED TALES

Lincoln's 90-second ad was inspired by tweets by fans about road trips. The company asked people to send their stories, and Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC's ``Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,'' decided on which tales would be used.

The ad, which was based on more than 6,000 tweets from fans, shows adventures during a fictional road trip. A woman picks up a German hitchhiker, and they go to an alpaca farm, get stopped by turtles crossing the road, and drive through a movie set.

Rap pioneer Joseph ``Rev Run'' Simmons and Wil Wheaton, who acted in ``Star Trek: The Next Generation,'' made cameos in the spot.

Coca-Cola created an ad based on an online campaign that pit three groups - a troupe of showgirls, biker style badlanders and cowboys - against each other in a race through a desert for a Coke.

Starting Jan. 23 and continuing through the end of the Super Bowl, viewers voted online for their favorite group. The group with the most votes - the showgirls - was revealed when the Super Bowl ended.

Audi also went with an ad that told a story - and was inspired by viewers. The company's 60-second ad featured an ending that was voted on by viewers prior to the game.

In the ad, a boy gains confidence from driving his father's Audi to the prom, kisses the prom queen once he arrives at the dance and gets decked by the prom king. In the end, he drives back home with a smile on his face.

The Audi mini-epic was a favorite of Super Bowl viewer Stephanie Bice, 39, a business development director in Oklahoma City.

``It was fun and whimsical,'' Bice said.

COMEDY GOES LONG

Not all of the storytelling ads were dramatic, though.

Samsung's two-minute ad showed Seth Rogen ("The Guilt Trip'') and Paul Rudd ("Role Models'') getting called in to do a ``Next Big Thing'' ad for Samsung. But they're agitated once they realize that they're sharing the spotlight. LeBron James, an NBA basketball player for the Miami Heat, makes a cameo, appearing on the screen of a tablet.

The ad won over some fans in the ad world.

``I could watch the Samsung ad over and over again,'' said David Berkowitz, vice president at digital marketing agency 360i. ``It's as good as any Seth Rogen movie.''

Budweiser, a long-time Super Bowl advertiser, also told a continuing story in two of its ads. One showed rival 49ers and Ravens fans each creating a voodoo doll for the other team with the help of R&B legend Stevie Wonder. In the other ad, fans go to great lengths to curse a rival fan's ``lucky chair.''

``It's only weird if it doesn't work,'' the words in the ad read.

Mercedes-Benz's 90-second ad had a Faustian plot.

A devilish Willem Dafoe (''Spider-Man'') shows a man everything that comes with a Mercedes-Benz CLX: A date with supermodel Kate Upton, dancing with Usher, driving around with beautiful girls, getting on the cover of magazines including Vanity Fair and GQ, getting to drive on a racetrack.

The man almost signs his soul away for the car. But then he sees a billboard that says the car starts at $29,900, and doesn't sign.

NOT EVERY AD TELLS A STORY

Although many advertisers tried to pull people in with lengthy story lines, there were a few that stuck with short, quirky spots with no particular plot.

GoDaddy.com's ad was one of them. It showed a close up, extended kiss between supermodel Bar Refaeli and a nerdy guy wearing glasses to illustrate GoDaddy's combo of ``sexy'' and ``smart.''

Some viewers thought the ad was too explicit for the Super Bowl.

``I don't care who wins the game. I just don't want to see that commercial again, ever,'' said Stephen G. Smith, 63, an editor at The Washington Times in Washington, D.C.

Stephanie Malone from DeKalb, Ill., agreed: ``GoDaddy should be ashamed.''

Striking a less controversial note, Best Buy's 30-second ad in the first quarter starred Amy Poehler, of NBC's ``Parks and Recreation,'' asking a Best Buy employee endless questions about electronics.

``Will this one read `50 Shades of Grey' to me in a sexy voice?'' Poehler asks about an e-book reader. Then, when the staffer says no she asks, ``Will you?''

M&M's spot showed its red spokescharacter singing Meatloaf's ``I Would Do Anything For Love,'' and wooing beautiful women. But the M&M stopped short when the women try to eat him.

And Oreo's ad featured a showdown in a library between people fighting over whether the cookie or the cream is the best part of the cookie. The punch-line? The fight escalates into thrown chairs and other destruction, but because the fight is in a library, everyone still has to whisper.

The ad directed users to follow Oreo on Instagram photo-sharing site, where they could continue the ``cookie vs. cream'' debate. Meanwhile, Oreo was quick to capitalize on the blackout that hit the game for about 30 minutes in the third quarter. It tweeted a picture of an Oreo in the half-dark with the words: ``You can still dunk in the dark.''

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Ravens vs. Bengals Week 11: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens vs. Bengals Week 11: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

It's been a whirlwind of a week for both the Baltimore Ravens (4-5) and Cincinnati Bengals (5-4) as the two get set for their Week 11 AFC North division matchup.

Ahead of Sunday's game, here's everything you need to know to watch.

We've got ourselves a quarterback situation

Who is going to start at quarterback for the Ravens in Week 11? Will it be Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson or Robert Griffin III?

News broke during the Ravens' Week 10 bye that Flacco sustained a right hip injury in the team's Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers spurring a full-blown quarterback situation. 

With Flacco missing practice all week, the idea of Jackson getting his first NFL start looked like it was going to become a reality. Then Jackson missed Thursday's practice with an illness. Jackson returned to practice o n Friday, but not before the RGIII hype train could leave the station.

The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year earned a spot on the 53-man roster for this very reason. Add in reports that the Ravens weren't happy with Jackson's progression throughout the week and we could very well be seeing the NFL comeback of RGIII.

Considering how hush the Ravens have been all week on Flacco's status, don't expect to hear who the starter is until Sunday morning. 

Nonetheless, Sunday's matchup vs. the Bengals is the Ravens' most crucial game of the season as they fight to stay in playoff contention and avoid dropping to 4-6. Whether it's Flacco, Jackson or Griffin III under center, the pressure for a win is on. 

Special assistant to the regional manager head coach

After getting blown out by the New Orleans Saints 51-14 and being the first team in the Super Bowl era to surrender 500 yards in three straight games, the Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin Monday. 

Head coach Marvin Lewis will now call the defensive plays in the stadium where he built the NFL's record-setting defense in 2000 as defensive coordinator of the Ravens. To help him with the workload, Lewis brought newly fired Browns head coach Hue Jackson to be their special assistant to the head coach.

Lewis will have his hands full leading a defense that's currently ranked 31st in total points (32) and rushing yards (141.2), and 32nd in total yards (454.6) and passing yards (313.3). It doesn't help his game plan either that the Ravens' starting QB will likely be announced Sunday.

"I’m trying to prepare the Cincinnati Bengals – that’s my focus, OK?," Lewis said on a conference call with media Wednesday. "I can’t control who they put at quarterback based on his injury, whatever – Joe’s [injury]. Our focus has got to be us, and that’s what I’m focusing on – getting us better and getting us righted.”

Season once again comes down to Bengals

Week 17 of the 2017 season with the postseason 53 seconds away, Andy Dalton found Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard, game-winning touchdown that left the Ravens without January football for yet another year. 

Week 11 of the 2018 season and the Ravens find themselves in that exact same spot sitting third in the AFC North. 

What the Ravens do have on their side is owning the NFL's best record following the bye (13-3) since the division realignment in 2002, and the fact that Dalton has thrown the second-most interceptions this season (10) behind rookie Sam Darnold's 14. This is great news for a Ravens defense that hasn't forced a turnover in 11 quarters. With star wide receiver A.J. Green out with a toe injury and running back Joe Mixon limited during Thursday's practice with a knee injury, the defense has a huge opportunity to not allow history to repeat itself. 

Click here to see the updated Ravens-Bengals injury report

Ravens vs. Bengals Week 11 How to Watch:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals

What: Week 11 regular season

When: Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, 1:00 p.m. ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Watch Now with fuboTV - Try free trial

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 and 98Rock

Weather: 47 degrees, most cloudy

Record: Bengals lead all-time series 23-22. Ravens own a 6-4 record at home. 

Ravens 2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sun., 9/9. Ravens vs. Bills. Win, 47-3 (1-0)

Week 2: Thur., 9/13 Ravens at Bengals. Loss, 34-23 (1-1)

Week 3: Sun., 9/23 Ravens vs. Broncos. Win, 27-14 (2-1)

Week 4: Sun., 9/30 Ravens at Steelers. Win, 26-14 (3-1)

Week 5: Sun., 10/7 Ravens at Browns. Loss, 12-9 (3-2)

Week 6: Sun., 10/14 Ravens at Titans. Win, 21-0 (4-2)

Week 7: Sun., 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m. Loss, 24-23 (4-3)

Week 8: Sun., 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m. Loss 36-21 (4-4)

Week 9: Sun., 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m. Loss 23-16 (4-5)

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sun., 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sun., 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sun., 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sun., 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sun., 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Sat., 12/22 @ Chargers, 8:20 p.m. ET

Week 17: Sun., 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.

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It's Friday and the Ravens still haven't announced who their starting quarterback is for Sunday

It's Friday and the Ravens still haven't announced who their starting quarterback is for Sunday

The suspense is killing us.

Will it be Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III or actually Joe Flacco starting for the Baltimore Ravens Sunday in the most important game of the season, in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals?

Well, it's almost time for happy hour on a Friday and we still don't have a definite answer.

Flacco, who is nursing a right hip injury, did not practice this week and was listed as doubtful on the team's Friday injury report.

But the good news is that Jackson, who missed Thursday's practice with an illness, was a full participant Friday. When asked whether Jackson missing the most crucial day of practice is concerning, head coach John Harbaugh had us scratching our heads.

“It’s not ideal,” Harbaugh said. “Was it part of the plan? Apparently, it was.”

Jackson admitted that the possibility of his first NFL start Sunday would bring on a few butterflies but that once the ball was snapped,"it's on."

"You have to have trust with your guys," Jackson said Wednesday. "You have to have them believing in you to put points on the board. So, that’ll be my job if I’m out there.”

And in the latest version of 'The NFL is wild,' Robert Griffin III was the only Ravens quarterback who participated in a full week of practice.

The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year hasn't started an NFL game since January 1, 2017, but has stayed up to speed in case a moment like this occurred. 

"That's my job. That's why they brought me here," Griffin III said Wednesday. "They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be. I try to help the defense every week on scout team and then do those [reps], and if my number's called I'll be able to go out there and lead this team."

Prior to this week, Flacco had only been on the team's injury report eight times and had missed only three regular-season practices. In 11 years, Flacco has missed just six games, starting the last 41. 

Guard/tackle James Hurst (back) has been ruled out for the fourth week as well as Tim Williams (ankle).

Cornerback Tavon Young (ankle), tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and safety Tony Jefferson (thigh) are listed as questionable. 

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