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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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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' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have expressed interest in moving on from Matthew Judon through a trade this offseason. 

Judon, who isn’t under contract for next season, was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 9.5 — a team-high. He was also the team-leader in quarterback hits with 33. The next best pass-rusher was Tyus Bowser, who registered 10. 

Lined up for a big payday, and with a high-priced franchise tag an option, the Ravens could lose their second pass-rusher in as many years on the free agent market should they elect to not pay Judon the elite pass-rusher money he’ll likely command.

Which brings the Ravens to the report from Schefter that indicated the team could move on from Judon, 27, through the sign-and-trade route. 

Should Judon, or the Ravens, walk away from the negotiating table in free agency, two options exist: The Ravens could either let him walk freely to another team and likely receive a 2021 third-round pick as compensation, or place the franchise tag on Judon. 

With the franchise tag option, the Ravens could keep him for a season and essentially kick the can down the road for a year, or trade him for a return that would likely be greater than the compensatory third, and more importantly, the help would be immediate. 

A few weeks ago, coach John Harbaugh said re-signing Judon would be, “pretty hard,” but that the team was going to try.  

But if the Ravens aren’t able, or are unwilling, to sign Judon, a potential blueprint for a future trade might have been laid out last year by the Chiefs. 

Last season, the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a second-round pick just a month before they sent first and third-round picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark and a third-round pick.

Ford had 13 sacks in 2018 and 29 quarterback hits while Clark had 13 as well and 27 quarterback hits. They both immediately signed long-term, expensive contracts with their new teams. 

Baltimore could make a move similar to that with Judon and get better, and more immediate, compensation for him and later add a pass-rusher with the draft capital than the team added.

The Ravens have just under 29 million dollars in cap space, meaning they’ve got the space to sign Judon to a long-term deal or keep him on the franchise tag, but they’d need to make some moves to be able to field a full roster. And that full roster, if Judon isn’t in Baltimore in 2020, needs pass-rushing help. 

Baltimore had 37 sacks as a team, and just over a quarter of them came from Judon. It also had 111 total quarterback hits, and 29.7 percent came from Judon. 

So the report that the Ravens could move Judon could play out, perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Judon trade would be the replacement the Ravens would need to have lined up.

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With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has a decision to make on his playing future, but he's in no rush to make it.

The 35-year-old is under contract with the Ravens through the 2020 season, but will take the next month or so to decide if he wants to continue playing or hang up the cleats.

"I'm going to take my time now," Yanda told Ravens.com regarding his future. "Done playing for the year, just take some time over the next month and basically just go with my heart and see how I feel."

The eight-time Pro Bowler was a vital piece in the NFL's best rushing attack in 2019. Yanda, the leader of the offensive line, started and played in 15 games this season for Baltimore, missing the regular-season finale as the Ravens rested multiple starters with the No. 1 seed already clinched.

Following Baltimore's upset divisional playoff loss to the Titans, a visibly disappointed Yanda refused to address his future, but he was definitely thinking about it then.

But if Sunday's Pro Bowl was the last time Yanda put on the pads, he didn't treat the game or experience any differently.

"Not necessarily," Yanda said if he cherished Sunday's Pro Bowl differently. "You're not in that frame of mind. I definitely didn't think about [my retirement decision] too much today, just because it was the Pro Bowl. It's more of a relaxed game, not like a really intense game.

"I didn't have those feelings as much as the Tennessee game," he continued." Yeah, it's a possibility. But those feelings were more in the Tennessee game."

Even at age 35, Yanda remains one of the best guards in the game. He's made the NFL's second-team All-Pro squad the past two seasons and has been a Pro Bowler every season since 2011, minus the 2017 season where he played just two games due to a season-ending ankle injury.

There's no debate: Baltimore would greatly benefit from Yanda returning.

"You want people that want you back," Yanda said. "You want to be playing very well when you end. Nobody wants to fade out; you want to go out strong."

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