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Winning AFC North early could give Harbaugh tough choices

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Winning AFC North early could give Harbaugh tough choices

The Ravens could lock up the AFC North Sunday with a win over Pittsburgh and a Cincinnati loss to the Chargers. Even if that happens and the Ravens lose their final four games, they'd finish 10-6 and if the Bengals win their final four, they'd do the same, but Baltimore would get the tiebreaker with a better AFC North record.

However, if the Ravens clinch so early, it brings up a few interesting questions for coach John Harbaugh and his staff. The biggest question is a very simple one-- who plays and who sits. That's probably something determined by where the Ravens are in the overall AFC playoff race.

The Colts went through this a few years ago, taking their foot off the gas late in the season and resting some players after they had everything locked up, and that seemed to hurt them as they didn't look as sharp in the playoffs. 

But the Ravens aren't in the same spot. In fact, they would still be in a battle with the Houston Texans for the No. 1 seed and with New England and Denver for the other top spots. The Ravens have an edge since they already beat the Patriots. They'll also play Denver later on.

As long as the Ravens still have a shot at the No. 1 seed -- something that gets tougher each week since the Texans already beat them and finishing in a tie won't help much -- they'll keep rolling. 

Same with the New England/Denver situation. The Ravens would love to get into the spot they were in last year, getting a first-round bye and earning an AFC semifinal game at home. That would mean they wouldn't have to get on the road until the AFC final and since the Ravens play so well at home, this could be a big plus. 

That's why the AFC North title won't have as much of an effect on the Ravens unless they lock up something bigger. 

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Jalen Hurts' defiant NFL Combine comments mirror Lamar Jackson's

Jalen Hurts' defiant NFL Combine comments mirror Lamar Jackson's

It seems kind of laughable now, doesn’t it?

In 2018, questions about Lamar Jackson’s future position were unavoidable. His speed and elusiveness, combined with a spotty track record when it came to accuracy, had teams salivating about his potential at a number of skill positions in the NFL -- quarterback not included.

Now, coming off a unanimous MVP campaign, during which he rewrote record books and established himself as one of the young faces of the next generation of quarterbacks, it’s strange to look back on a time when the majority of football pundits thought his future was at wide receiver or running back.

Jackson’s undeniable success has not only taken the NFL by storm, it’s paved the way for future athletic college quarterbacks to stick at the position.

Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts, formerly of Alabama and one of the top players in the country, is receiving the same questions at this year’s NFL Combine that Jackson fielded at his. Namely, is he willing to switch positions?

His answer mirrors Jackson’s. He’s a quarterback only, and he has no interest in switching positions to appease an organization with less foresight than what the Ravens had with Jackson.

While Hurts didn’t mention Jackson by name in his reasoning, it’s hard not to draw parallels. Jackson’s 2019 season was one for the history books, and his influence will continue to trickle down to future generations.

Players like Jackson and Hurts haven’t always had the same opportunities to succeed -- or, more importantly, fail -- as other, more “traditional” quarterbacks have had in the course of NFL history. But organizations that are creative and willing to tailor their offensive schemes to the attributes of their quarterbacks are taking advantage of a largely backward-minded league.

Teams that look at Hurts and see a unique skillset full of things he can do, rather than what he can’t, are the way of the future. 

Hurts himself, along with a generation of fellow athletic quarterbacks entering the league over the next few seasons, are betting on this future when they demand to be evaluated as quarterbacks only.

They may have found a way to push through on their own. But Jackson’s incredible year has opened up the path in a major way, making it that much easier for the next crop of unique, talented quarterbacks to shine.

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Report: Marquise Brown has offseason surgery to remove screw from foot, will be healed for training camp

Report: Marquise Brown has offseason surgery to remove screw from foot, will be healed for training camp

According to a report from Ian Rapoport, Marquise Brown is fixing last offseason’s fix.

Brown reportedly had off-season surgery to remove a screw from his injured foot, hampered by a Lisfranc injury. The move isn’t expected to keep Brown out for spring training, though it will limit him in the off-season program.

As a rookie in 2019, Brown had 46 receptions for 584 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games played. He posted seven receptions and 126 yards in the team’s loss to the Titans in the divisional round. 

Brown was the team’s best deep threat and posted five games with catches of more than 30 yards last season. 

The injury affected him all season, but it appears that the former Oklahoma Sooner will be completely healthy for his second go-round with the Ravens. 

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