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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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2018 NFL Playoff Picture: Who to root for in Week 15 if you are a Baltimore Ravens fan

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USA TODAY Sports

2018 NFL Playoff Picture: Who to root for in Week 15 if you are a Baltimore Ravens fan

Heading into Week 15, there are plenty of questions surrounding the Baltimore Ravens and the AFC playoff picture. 

As things stand now, the Ravens (7-6) lead a four-way tie for the final Wild Card spot. Their 1-0 record against those other three opponents is the difference with them being in the playoffs. With that, there is no room for error with three weeks left in the season. A win by the Chargers has now narrowed the field even tighter.

Last week, only one result broke the Ravens way, a Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Oakland Raiders. This week, Baltimore cannot afford a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) with the schedules their competition have remaining.

As always, here are the teams in the playoff picture in the AFC that the Ravens hold a tiebreaker over:
-Tennessee Titans (7-6) -head-to-head
-Denver Broncos (6-7) - head-to-head

With these tiebreakers still up in the air:

-Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)
-New England Patriots (9-4)
-Houston Texans (9-4)
-Miami Dolphins (7-6)
-Indianapolis Colts (7-6)
-Cleveland Browns (5-7-1)
-Cincinnati Bengals (5-8) 

What bodes well for the Ravens is that no team has a tiebreaker locked up over Baltimore. But, the tiebreakers amongst all of their divisional opponents are yet to be decided.

Ravens Week 15 Rooting Guide

Houston Texans (9-4) vs. New York Jets (4-9)
Saturday, Dec. 15 at 4:30 p.m.

The Jets are officially eliminated from playoff contention, while the Texans are leading the AFC South. The Texans have a soft schedule left (@ Eagles and vs. Jaguars), so if the Ravens want a late-season run to propel them to the No. 3 seed they need Houston to lose in this one. A win by the Texans will give them the tiebreaker over Baltimore. Root for the Jets.

Cleveland Browns (5-7-1) vs. Denver Broncos (6-7) 
Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8:20 p.m.

This is a tough pick this week if you are a Ravens fan. A win by both teams would be equally bad for Baltimore. They have the tiebreaker over Denver and even with a win over Cleveland in Week 17, the Browns still could have the tiebreaker. Two Baltimore wins though, no matter who they're against, would place them ahead of both teams. Right now, root for the Broncos (although this might end up hurting the Ravens down the road).

A Broncos win would do twofold, put the Browns on the brink of elimination and if eliminated, the Ravens could have an easier chance at victory in Week 17 to potentially take the division title. This is a rare scenario that a tie might be the best scenario for Baltimore.

Oakland Raiders (3-10) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8)
Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1:00 p.m.

Pretty straight forward here. Oakland is out and Cincinnati is still in contention (technically). Root for the Raiders to eliminate the Bengals.

Tennessee Titans (7-6) vs. New York Giants (5-8) 
Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1:00 p.m.

AFC vs. NFC. A win by the Giants here could go a long way for the Ravens if they end up needing a Wild Card spot. Root for the Giants.

Miami Dolphins (7-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1:00 p.m.

Again, AFC vs. NFC. Root for the Vikings. This game in particular needs to go the way of the Ravens because the only teams that Miami have left are the four-win Jags and Bills with the conference tiebreaker still up for grabs.

Dallas Cowboys (8-5) vs. Indianapolis Colts (7-6) 
Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1:00 p.m.

Round III of AFC vs. NFC. Perhaps the most dangerous team to contend with the Ravens for that spot. Root for the Cowboys.

New England Patriots (9-4) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1) 
Sunday, Dec. 16 at 4:25 p.m.

Last week we told you to root for the Patriots and then they ended up losing. This week we will tell you to root for the Patriots again. This, however, is for more obvious reasons. 

A Steelers loss and a Ravens win puts Baltimore atop the division and in the driver's seat for the AFC North title. While yes the Ravens can still find another way to win the division and pass the Patriots for a higher seed, Baltimore does not control their playoff fate. With the scenario above, they do.

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Ravens vs. Buccaneers Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Ravens vs. Buccaneers Week 15: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Baltimore Ravens (7-6) get set to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium with the postseason in sight.

The Ravens are 3-2 all time against the Bucs with a 1-1 record when playing in Baltimore. The last time these two teams met was back in 2014 when the Ravens handed Tampa Bay a 48-17 loss, marking the most points ever scored by the Ravens on the road.

Here's everything you need to know ahead of the Week 15 matchup.

New Era

Incase you've been living in a hole the last two days, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced that rookie Lamar Jackson will be starting Sunday and Joe Flacco would be the backup in what appears to be a new era in Baltimore. 

Both Flacco and Jackson handled the news with class as the decision wasn't that big of surprise considering Jackson has led the team to three wins in their last four matchups. Harbaugh wouldn't divulge if and how they would utilize Flacco's talents, but alternating between the two throughout the matchup could trip up a lot of defenders. On top of that, the Buccaneers' defense is bottom of the barrel ranking 30th in the league in points (29.5), 27th in yards (387.9), 27th in passing yards (268.5) and 20th in rushing yards (119.4). 

Another Defensive Challenge

While their 5-8 record may not show it, the Buccaneers' offense could present a challenge for the Ravens' No. 1 scoring defense. Heading into Week 15, Tampa Bay is ranked 10th in the league in points (25.5), second in yards (430.1), first in passing yards (331.4), but 27th in rushing yards (98.7). Their 4,308 passing yards are the third-most through the first 13 games in NFL history and their 5,591 total yards are the eighth-most through the first 13 games in NFL history.

Wide receiver Mike Evans is currently tied for sixth in the league in receiving touchdowns over the last two seasons at 22, while Cameron Brate is tied for third in the league in receiving touchdowns among tight ends in 2018 at six. The Bucs also have seven different players to score at least five touchdowns so far this season making them just the fifth team to accomplish that .

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson has missed the last two games as he deals with a left thumb injury sustained in the season opener and re-injured against the New York Giants in Week 11. The injury has left him unable to squeeze a football with that hand, so don't expect D-Jack on the field Sunday. 

Postseason In Sight

The Ravens have found themselves in this situation many times before. With three games to play, the Ravens sit in the sixth and final AFC playoff spot and half a game back of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North title.

In typical fashion, it's going to come down to the wire. The Ravens are in a four-way race with the Colts, Titans and Dolphins for the final playoff spot. A win Sunday against the Buccaneers is a must as they head to Los Angeles in Week 16 to face the Chargers, who just handed the Kansas City Chiefs a rare loss on Thursday Night Football and the Cleveland Browns in Week 17. 

Claiming the division and playing January football for the first time in three seasons is on the horizon, and with two quarterbacks to use at their disposal the Ravens are truly in control of writing their own ending. 

Click here to see the Ravens-Bucs injury report. 

Ravens vs. Buccaneers Week 15 How to Watch:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What: Week 15 regular season

When: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, 1:00 p.m. ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md

TV Channel: FOX

Live Stream: Watch Now with fuboTV - Try free trial

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 and 98Rock

Weather: 47 degrees, mostly cloudy with some rain

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. Win 24-21 (5-5)

Week 12: Sun., 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m. Win 34-17 (6-5)

Week 13: Sun., 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m. Win 26-16 (7-5)

Week 14: Sun., 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m. Loss 27-24 (7-6)

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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