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Woodhead, Jones active for Pats in AFC title game

Woodhead, Jones active for Pats in AFC title game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Running back Danny Woodhead and defensive end Chandler Jones are active for the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Both missed most of the Patriots' 41-28 playoff win over Houston last week. Woodhead hurt his left thumb carrying the ball on the Patriots' first offensive play. Jones, who had six sacks this season, injured his ankle.

For the Ravens, running back Bernard Pierce, fullback Vonta Leach and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe were active Sunday. They were listed as questionable Friday.

The Patriots' inactive players were wide receiver Kamar Aiken, safety Derrick Martin, cornerback Malcolm Williams, offensive linemen Nick McDonald and Marcus Zusevics and defensive linemen Jake Bequette and Marcus Forston.

Baltimore's inactives were defensive backs Asa Jackson and Omar Brown, linebacker Adrian Hamilton, offensive lineman Ramon Harewood, wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and defensive linemen DeAngelo Tyson and Bryan Hall.

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Ravens prepare to head to Kansas City with last year’s gut-punch still in mind

Ravens prepare to head to Kansas City with last year’s gut-punch still in mind

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson remembers last year’s trip to Kansas City. He doesn’t want to. 

In a 27-24 overtime defeat, Jackson suffered the only regular season loss of his career. The two teams never played again, as the Ravens lost in the Wild Card round to the Chargers. 

There’s been significant changes for both teams since then, but Jackson hasn’t forgotten the feeling he left Kansas City with. 

“It’s still with me right now,” Jackson explained. “It doesn’t go away until I get that opportunity again and perform very well.”

Last year, Jackson was in his fourth start in the NFL when the Ravens went into Arrowhead Stadium and nearly knocked off the AFC’s top seed. 

This year, the Ravens have no good feelings about how that game went, despite the development that aided a young roster. 

“That was a big-time game, kind of a nail-biter game,” Mark Andrews said. “A lot of guys kind of grew up in that game. I think Lamar [Jackson] being able to play a tight game like that was big for his growth. It’s one of those games that I don’t think a lot of people have forgotten to this day.”

As for changes that can be taken from the game, there’s not much benefit to that. 

The Chiefs have multiple new starters on their defense compared to last year and a new defensive coordinator. Tyreek Hill won’t be in this year’s iteration of the game due to a shoulder injury, but they’ve replaced him with other incredibly talented and speedy wideouts. 

And there’s reason to believe that, at least through two weeks, Patrick Mahomes might even be better than he was a year ago.

“Our guys have been in the stadium,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They’ve been in that tiny little locker room before. They’ve been on that field. They’ve stayed in that hotel. All of those things are pluses. We played a good game, but we didn’t win. That’s motivation also.”

Last season’s loss wasn’t just a typical loss, either. 

Baltimore entered at 7-5 and were in a chase for a playoff spot. And with just under five minutes left, its chances looked good. 

But Mahomes completed a long, incredible pass on fourth and nine from the his own territory to set the Chiefs up with first down. A few plays later, on another fourth down, the Chiefs converted to tie the game at 24. They later won in overtime 27-24.

Some Ravens won’t admit it, but there’s lessons to be learned in that loss. 

“I think when you’re a young player and you’re in that environment — that hostile, on the road environment — … Kansas City has a great home crowd and they’re extremely loud,” Marshal Yanda said. “So yes, I think that those loud games for young players are important. He should be able to build from that.”

Sunday’s matchup, between two of the league’s top teams, has the potential to be one of the season’s top games once again. The Ravens will undoubtedly take lessons from last year’s wild finish in Kansas City.

They just hope it ends better than last time. 

“They’re a really good team and we want to perform our best,” Matt Skura said. “We know they went far in the playoffs last year and this year they obviously want to make a run. We want to show people that our offense, and our offensive line, can handle the so-called powerhouse of the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a huge game for us and we want to showcase our best abilities.”

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Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks — Lamar Jackson and Pat Mahomes — set to square off in week three

Two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks — Lamar Jackson and Pat Mahomes — set to square off in week three

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Chiefs is much more than just a matchup of two 2-0 teams. 

It’s a rematch of last year’s Week 14 thriller, a 27-24 Chiefs overtime win. It’s a game with one of the league’s best secondary’s pitted against one of the league’s best receiving corps. Ravens coach John Harbaugh once answered to Chiefs coach Andy Reid on the sidelines in Philadelphia.

But in a lot of ways, fair or unfair, this Sunday’s game is being billed as Lamar Jackson versus Patrick Mahomes.

Jackson, however, doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s Ravens vs. the Chiefs,” Jackson said. “I don’t really look at it like I’m competing against him. I’m competing against their defense if anything. I depend on my defense to do a great job of stopping him. It’s my job to score points.”

Still, the comparisons between Mahomes and Jackson aren’t hard to find.

Mahomes is in his third year in the NFL, his second as a starter, and is the league’s reigning MVP. Jackson is in his second year, his first full season as a starter. 

Jackson won AFC Player of the Week in Week 1; Mahomes won in Week 2. Jackson has thrown for seven touchdowns and zero interceptions through two games. Mahomes has the same statistics. Mahomes has 822 total yards on the year. Jackson has 722. 

The respect is there from Jackson, who said Mahomes is on the way to becoming a quarterback like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. 

“He’s on his way,” Jackson said. “Those guys have Super Bowls. He’s a dynamic quarterback. It’s his third year and he’s been doing a tremendous job. [He’s a] former MVP. I just can’t wait to compete against him again.”

Both quarterbacks can make plays off-script, albeit in different ways. 

Mahomes can run from sideline-to-sideline and throw the ball across the field. He’s thrown no-look passes and is incredibly dangerous outside of the pocket. 

“You keep him in the pocket as much as you can,” coach John Harbaugh said of Mahomes. “You make him throw under pressure as much as you can. You cover the guys as well as you can. Then, you play football. That’s what you try to do. If he throws one up down the middle again, hopefully, we’ll get it this time.”

Jackson is just as dangerous outside the pocket, but because he can escape the pocket and forces defenses to commit to his running ability. His speed was a problem for the Cardinals last Sunday, who allowed him to rush for 120 yards. 

“The coordinators and the quarterbacks coaches, they’ve opened the gates for him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said on Jackson. “They’re doing a million different things, and he’s doing it well, and it looks like he’s loving doing it.”

Both quarterbacks have made a living by playing off-script and unexpected, whether or not their playing styles are similar. 

It’s why both teams will spend this Sunday trying to get the ball back in their own quarterback’s hands.

“I think he can continue doing what he’s been doing,” Earl Thomas said. “He’s been very consistent. He’s basically like the big energy ball we need. Whatever he’s doing, if he’s running the ball, if he’s passing, he’s making it happen for us. Us on defense, we just try to keep getting him the ball.”

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