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Upon further review, replacement refs are a problem

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Upon further review, replacement refs are a problem

We're halfwaythrough the preseason, and one thing that has become increasingly clear in justtwo weeks' worth of preseason games: The replacement officials are badlyovermatched, and the drumbeat is growing to get this labor dispute settled andget the regular officials on the field by Week 1. Look, by anymeasure, officiating is a hard job. Was there holding in that scrum? Was therecontact before the ball arrived? But as fans saw at M&T Bank Stadium onFriday night, with the replacement officials, confusion seems to be the rulerather than the exception. Frequently, questionable flags are thrown. The ballis spotted incorrectly. There are phantom touchbacks. Game clock management isunclear.
As Ravensreceiver Anquan Boldin told the Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck after the Lionsgame, "They've really got to do something about that. Some of the callsout there ... the way the game was being stopped. It just lookedunprofessional."Pro FootballTalk's Mike Florio was less diplomatic, saying the league is fixing theofficials problem with "duct tape and dried-up glue," using "acollection of third-tier-and-worse replacement officials."
And USA Today'sJarrett Bell said, "This has the appearance of a runaway mockery."Mike Pereira, theleague's former director of officiating who now works as a Fox analyst, toldBall that, "I'm even more concerned than I was before they started playingthe games. They're struggling, though it's no fault of their own. They'recompetent officials for the level they're on, like, in Division II."
Major collegeofficials are prohibited from working NFL games. So while the NFL and theregular officials continue their standoff -- which basically is about money andthe officials' pension -- the zebras blowing the whistles now come from lowercollege, high school and semipro ranks, or are coming out of retirement. This to officiatethe NFL's gazillion-dollar product.
To be sure, theregular officials aren't perfect, and they don't help their cause by pointingout the replacements' mistakes. By doing so, they are asking for increasedscrutiny and accountability when they return, which, frankly, should happenanyway. But the regularofficials seem to be gaining leverage with each preseason game. On Saturday,there was a critical mistake in the Cowboys-Chargers game that cost the Cowboyspossession deep in San Diego territory. The Cowboys lost the game, 28-20.
No, that gamedidn't count in the standings. But does the NFL want to have this mess on theirhands when the games count for real?

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Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

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USA TODAY Sports

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.

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