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Ravens win AFC North at expense of fading Giants

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Ravens win AFC North at expense of fading Giants

BALTIMORE (AP) The Baltimore Ravens feel as if they've already started the playoffs.

It's a sensation the New York Giants may not experience this year.

In a duel between two slumping teams desperate for a victory, the Ravens beat the Giants 33-14 on Sunday to win the AFC North for the second straight season.

``The difference was, for us, I just think we had a little bit more sense of urgency because we knew what was at stake,'' Baltimore running back Ray Rice said. ``This was a championship game for us. Solidify the home playoff game, back-to-back division champs. That's huge around here.''

The Ravens (10-5) were already assured a fifth straight trip to the playoffs, but by winning the division crown, they are guaranteed to open the playoffs at home during the first weekend in January.

``I am as proud of this team right now as ever,'' coach John Harbaugh said.

The defending champion Giants, meanwhile, are simply hard to figure out. This game was more important to them than it was to the Ravens because New York (8-7) had not secured a playoff berth. Now, after their second straight lopsided loss, the Giants need a win over Philadelphia next week and a whole lot of help to get back into the postseason.

``I just don't have any answers,'' defensive tackle Chris Canty said. ``I just don't know. It's been tough. We just haven't been consistent, and it shows in our play and where we are at right now.''

Joe Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens, who led 24-7 at halftime and cruised to the finish behind a short-handed defense that harassed quarterback Eli Manning and limited New York to 186 yards.

Playing its second game with Jim Caldwell as offensive coordinator, Baltimore scored touchdowns on its first two possessions and amassed a season-high 533 yards - including 289 in the first half alone.

``It's about execution, man. It's a simple word, but it's a very tough task to do,'' said Rice, who ran for 107 yards and caught six passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.

``We know what's at stake. We want the AFC championship and it starts tonight,'' safety James Ihedigbo said. ``Playoffs started for us. We're not looking at regular season. Playoffs started for us and we're going to keep on playing.''

The Giants, on the other hand, have lost five of seven and were coming off a 34-0 loss to Atlanta. This one was just as ugly.

``You saw the scoreboard,'' Manning said. ``It wasn't real pretty, but that's what can happen in football.''

Flacco rebounded from a stretch in which he committed two turnovers in each of Baltimore's three straight defeats. He completed 25 of 36 passes, ran for a score and did not throw an interception or lose a fumble.

He repeatedly picked on New York cornerback Corey Webster, who simply couldn't contain Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin. Smith caught five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown, and Boldin finished with seven receptions for 93 yards.

Bernard Pierce ran for 123 yards as part of a running attack that generated 224 yards.

The Giants struggled on offense and were just as shaky on defense, a horrible combination for a team looking to stay tied atop the NFC East.

``What has happened over the course of the last couple of weeks is very difficult to explain,'' coach Tom Coughlin said. We just don't look like a well-oiled machine offensively at all.''

Said Manning: ``We knew we had to play our best football at the end of the season to get into the playoffs and we haven't done that. When you're not playing your best, teams can come out and embarrass you.''

Baltimore scored on its first two possessions to take a 14-0 lead, upped the margin to 17 points at halftime and kept the Giants at bay throughout the final 30 minutes. The Ravens held the ball for 39 minutes, 21 seconds compared to 20:39 for New York.

Unless they get very lucky, the Giants will wrap up a disappointing season next Sunday. Some of the players, however, already seem to be thinking about next year.

``We have to fight. There are jobs at stake and there is pride at stake,'' linebacker Chase Blackburn said. ``Nine-and-seven versus 8-8 is a big difference. Hopefully we have enough pride ... to come out and give our best effort.''

NOTES: Flacco has thrown for a career-high 3,783 yards this season. ... New York defensive linemen Marvin Austin and Canty both left with knee injuries. ... Boldin hurt his shoulder in the third quarter and did not return. ... Baltimore has won 10 straight regular-season home finales and has 13 consecutive home victories over NFC foes. ... It was only the fifth time in 47 games that New York did not force a turnover.

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NFL analyst Warren Sharp bullish on Lamar Jackson headed into season

NFL analyst Warren Sharp bullish on Lamar Jackson headed into season

Warren Sharp held nothing back when discussing Lamar Jackson’s 2018 season. 

In a blog post on his website, Sharp posted an article titled ‘You’re Wrong About Lamar Jackson’ that detailed why he thinks Jackson isn’t only underrated but poised for a breakout year. 

Sharp, a former engineer, is a football analyst who specializes in advanced statistics in relation to football. And when it comes to the Ravens second-year quarterback, he’s as high as ever. 

On The Daily Line, Sharp said, “I just think he’s severely underestimated with what people saw last season. What people don’t realize is that out of the 11 rookie quarterbacks in the NFL who started when they were 21-years older or less, Lamar Jackson had the best passer rating in NFL history.”

Jackson, who started the last seven games of the Ravens season last year, finished 6-1 as a starter, but left some doubting his ability to sustain that success. Notably, it was his passing touch that left analysts and fans questioning whether or not he was the right quarterback for the Ravens.

But Sharp is one analyst who is confident in what Jackson’s skillset can do for the Ravens, who are expected to run the ball more than any team in the league. 

Jackson also posted a snippet of the blog to his Instagram story on Tuesday, too. 

The Ravens open up the season on Sept. 8 against the Dolphins, where Jackson will begin his quest to prove his doubters wrong — and Sharp right. 

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Ray Lewis is bringing his swagger and creativity to Dancing with the Stars

Ray Lewis is bringing his swagger and creativity to Dancing with the Stars

Evacuate the dance floor. Ravens Hall of Famer Ray Lewis will be taking his talents to ABC's Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America announced Wednesday.

After two Super Bowl, Vince Lombardi trophies, Lewis has his eyes set on winning the coveted Mirror Ball trophy, awarded to the winning dance duo on DWTS.

New York Giants Hall of Famer and now GMA host contributor Michael Strahan, set the bar high for Lewis, who was known for his creative touchdown celebration dances during his 17-year career with the Ravens.

"I know you're going to bring some swagger to the ballroom man, because you brought it on the field," Strahan said.

Lewis is not the only DMV football player to join the DWTS cast, Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman was one of three finalists last year.

Lewis joins other notable cast members such as The Bachelorette's Hannah Brown and NBA's Lamar Odom.

You can watch Lewis compete on DWTS season 28 beginning Monday, Sept. 16 on ABC.

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