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Ravens poised for showdown against Steelers

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Ravens poised for showdown against Steelers

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens enter the most difficult part of the schedule coming off their most dominant performance of the season.

Coach John Harbaugh hopes the boost in morale derived from a 55-20 rout of Oakland will carry into Sunday night's showdown against Pittsburgh - and beyond that.

``I think confidence is borne of success,'' Harbaugh said Monday. ``When you do things well, it's a positive thing. It doesn't guarantee anything, just like if you're struggling the week before it doesn't guarantee that you can't do something. Every week does stand on its own, but playing well is a good thing. We'd like to build on that.''

Before facing the Raiders on Sunday, the Ravens were sporadic on offense and victimized by inconsistent defensive play. Both units excelled against Oakland, and special teams contributed two touchdowns to the highest-scoring output in franchise history.

Baltimore's previous five wins were by 1, 7, 3, 2 and 10 points. This one was 27-10 at halftime, the Ravens' largest margin at the break this season.

``We always want to play well and play like that and try to get after teams,' guard Marshal Yanda said. ``It was important for us to play well and kind of get this thing rolling a little bit.''

Baltimore (7-2) stands alone atop the AFC North, but the final seven weeks offer a steep challenge. After Sunday night's game, the Ravens travel to San Diego, where they lost 34-14 last year. Baltimore then hosts the Steelers. The final four games are at Washington, at home against Denver, a matchup at home against the defending NFL champion New York Giants and at Cincinnati.

Harbaugh is usually a one-game-at-a-time kind of guy, but he knew months ago that Baltimore's bid to reach the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year would hinge upon its success over the final seven weeks.

``When the schedule first came out, we knew it was going to be an important stretch for us, and here it is,'' he said. ``Fortunately, we've been good enough to put ourselves in position to make it meaningful, Now it's our job to make the most of it.''

It begins with a duel against the Steelers, Baltimore's biggest rival. Harbaugh won't have to make any emotional speech to get the players up for this one.

``I think it's the best week of the year because it's where we feel the most comfortable, probably,'' the coach said. ``It's where I feel the most comfortable, and I think our players and coaches feel the same way. It means so much to both teams. We like being in this week, we love playing these guys, we love the preparation for these guys. I'd say it's the best week of the year. Both of them.''

The Ravens went 10 weeks (including the bye) without seeing the Steelers. Now they've got them twice in the next three weeks.

``We play them sandwiched around a trip to San Diego, so that will be a big challenge for us,'' Harbaugh said. ``We just have to deal with it and make it good.''

Baltimore beat the Raiders without defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shoulder) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin). Both are expected to be ready by Sunday.

``Haloti and Jimmy resting should a plus for us,'' Harbaugh said.

``If they would have needed me I would have gone out,'' said Ngata, who watched from the sideline in full uniform.

The Ravens could afford to rest Ngata and Smith against the Raiders (3-6). The mindset will be completely different in Pittsburgh (5-3 before Monday night's game against Kansas City).''

``Every game is a different animal,'' Yanda said. ``Come next Sunday, we understand that it won't be like this (Oakland) game.''

Still, the Ravens couldn't have imagined a better prelude to Pittsburgh week than a 35-point, record-setting victory.

``We're starting the second half of the season now and it's a great way to start it - with a win like that where we really executed well in all three phases,'' said tight end Dennis Pitta, who had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. ``It was a great game for us and gives us a lot of momentum moving forward.''

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4 prospects Baltimore Ravens fans should be keeping an eye on in 2019 NFL Draft

4 prospects Baltimore Ravens fans should be keeping an eye on in 2019 NFL Draft

The Baltimore Ravens will add to their historic franchise this weekend during the 2019 NFL Draft. All eyes will be set on who they take with their first pick, whether that's at No. 22 or beyond. 

With a handful of needs, which prospects should you be aware of? Here are four players projected to possibly land with the Ravens Thursday night.

WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi

Metcalf grabbed the attention of the football world during the NFL Combine, running a 4.33 40-yard dash and posting a 40.5 vertical jump. The jury is still out, however, on how he'll pan out in the NFL. Metcalf missed part of the 2018 season with a neck injury and a foot injury derailed his 2016 season after just two games. Metcalf admitted that his history of injuries was brought up often when meeting with NFL teams, and his apparent 1.9% body fat simply isn't healthy, according to a combine trainer. Nonetheless, draft experts have the receiver as a top option for the Ravens. 

DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

The Ravens are going to need some help on defense after losing Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith in free agency. Ferrell had 38 tackles for loss and 21 sacks over the last two seasons with the National Champions. Standing at 6'4", 264 pounds, the defensive end's combine profile describes him as having "prototypical size, length and strength to offer early help against both the run and pass."

C/G Erik McCoy, Texas A&M

The Ravens could be looking for their center of the future. McCoy earned a starting role with the Aggies during the 2016 season, starting all 16 games after redshirting his freshman season. In his sophomore season, McCoy helped Texas A&M average 406.8 yards per game. From 2016-19, the center helped his team rush for over 2,000 yards. A talent like that could be extremely helpful with Lamar Jackson under center. 

WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

Another wide receiver in the mix, Brown averaged more than 18 yards per reception over two years at Oklahoma, racking up 1,300 yards with 10 touchdowns on 75 receptions in 2018 alone. Nicknamed "Hollywood," the 21-year-old's speed and ability to threaten deep "gives him a chance to become the most impactful wideout in this draft."

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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Baltimore Ravens and kicker Justin Tucker agree to four-year contract extension

Baltimore Ravens and kicker Justin Tucker agree to four-year contract extension

The most accurate kicker in NFL history is staying in Baltimore.

The Ravens announced Wednesday that they have agreed to a contract extension with kicker Justin Tucker. The four-year extension will keep him in Baltimore through the 2023 season. The extension is reportedly worth $23.05 million, including $12.5 million fully guaranteed in the first two years and an $8 million signing bonus.

Tucker, who was entering the final year of his second contract, is a two-time Pro Bowler who has made 90.1 percent of his field goal attempts through his seven-year career. In 2018, Tucker converted 35-of-39 field goal attempts and 36 of the Ravens' 27 extra points. He was also named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice last season and has a franchise-record nine nominations.

An undrafted free agent in 2012, the 29-year-old owns an NFL-record seven-career games with multiple 50-plus-yard field goals and became the only kicker in league history to kick field goals from the 20-, 30-, 40-, 50- and 60-yard ranges in a single game. 

Keeping Tucker in Baltimore is a major win for the Ravens this offseason. The team will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. to officially announce his extension. 

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

MORE RAVENS NEWS: