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With the Madden Curse 'dead,' Ravens endorse Lamar Jackson for next season's cover

With the Madden Curse 'dead,' Ravens endorse Lamar Jackson for next season's cover

In the past, many NFL stars tried to avoid being the cover athlete for the Madden NFL video game, citing the curse that follows.

But on Sunday, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the cover athlete for Madden NFL 20, the game's most recent edition, raised the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in his career when Kansas City defeated San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV. 

Baltimore's official Twitter account put out a video this week deeming the Madden curse dead, and thus, endorsing Lamar Jackson as the game's next cover athlete.

But is the curse actually dead?

It started with one of the game's first editions in 1999, with Garrison Hearst on the cover. He suffered a devastating ankle injury that took him two seasons to recover. Barry Sanders promptly retired just weeks after being on the cover in 2000. Eddie George never put up the same numbers after he graced the cover in 2001.

Dante Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Shaun Alexander, Vince Young, Peyton Hillis and Troy Polamalu were all bit by the curse with a statistical regression or injury the following season after being named the cover athlete. 

Only a few cover athletes -- Calvin Johnson, Richard Sherman, Tom Brady, and now Mahomes -- have completely beaten the curse in the game's nearly two-decade existence.

Jackson and Mahomes have different play styles, but they both have similar career arch's thus far. Both sat behind a proven veteran as a rookie and then won the league MVP their first year as a starter. Mahomes followed up his NFL MVP with a Super Bowl title this season, something Jackson will look to do in 2020.

Now, Jackson could follow in Mahomes' path as the Madden cover athlete.

"I don't believe in the curse," Jackson told reporters in November. "I play football. If it comes, it comes. But I'm playing football at the end of the day. Tom Brady was on the cover at one point, he still won Super Bowls."

Now, the Ravens hope Jackson, should he be named to the cover of the video game, joins the exclusive club of those who avoided the jinx.

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The last team to make the Super Bowl without having a bye? The 2012 Ravens

The last team to make the Super Bowl without having a bye? The 2012 Ravens

The NFL announced on Tuesday that the league will have a new playoff format beginning in 2020, one where seven teams from each conference would make the league's postseason.

While the new format helps those teams that finish with eight, nine or 10 wins and had previously been on the outside looking it, the new system also has its drawbacks. Each conference will now only have one team that earns a bye week, as the conference's No. 2 seed will now play on Wild Card weekend hosting the No. 7 seed.

Over the past seven seasons, all 14 Super Bowl participants were either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in their respective conference, meaning they had bye weeks. For the teams that made a deep run in the postseason, the extra week of rest proved to be beneficial.

So, it was worth wondering: Who was the last team was to play in a Super Bowl without having a bye week?

That would be the 2012 Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens finished the regular season 10-6 and as AFC North division champs. But Baltimore had the worst record of any division winner, giving them the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.

After Baltimore dominated then-rookie Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round, the Ravens traveled to the Mile High City for a date with the Denver Broncos. The Ravens upset Denver in double overtime after quarterback Joe Flacco found Jacoby Jones on a 70-yard touchdown to tie the game with less than a minute remaining in regulation.

In the conference championship, Baltimore traveled to Gillette Stadium and cruised by the Patriots, winning 28-13 and clinching their first Super Bowl berth since 2000. In Super Bowl XLVII, Baltimore held off an epic San Francisco comeback and defeated the 49ers in a thriller, 34-31.

The Ravens proved that a team can win a Super Bowl without having a bye, but it hasn't happened in a long time. With the new playoff format, that will likely change.

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Why it doesn't make sense for the Ravens to trade up in the draft for a wide receiver

Why it doesn't make sense for the Ravens to trade up in the draft for a wide receiver

Despite the fact that the Ravens missed out on Michael Brockers, it’s hard not to look at the offseason and see modest levels of progress. 

The Ravens added two interior defensive linemen to help out with a pass rush that could use a boost on the inside and kept Matthew Judon around on a franchise tag. 

Even still, the Ravens and general manager Eric DeCosta still have a lot of work to do before next season begins. And they’ve got nine picks — and seven in the first four rounds — to fill out the roster. 

Meaning, the Ravens have the ammunition to trade up for a player in the top half of the first round, should they choose. But while that option might seem tantalizing to the fanbase, it doesn’t make sense to move up for certain positions. One of those positions is wide receiver. 

The Ravens’ team website answered this question from a fan a week ago about the prospect of moving up in the draft for another wideout for Lamar Jackson. While it’s true that adding Jerry Jeudy or Ceedee Lamb or even a Justin Jefferson or Henry Ruggs-type wideout would only further elevate the offense, it’s not the most sensical move for the roster. 

Baltimore picks 28th in the draft, so if it felt it needed to trade with Denver to get the 15th selection to pick one of Lamb or Jeudy, that’d cost them a chunk of their draft capital. 

According to a trade value chart, the Ravens’ 28th selection is currently worth about 660 “points.” Should they move up to 15th overall, which is worth 1,050 points, they’d have to make up a difference of 390 points. Meaning, a potential trade to 15th would cost the Ravens — approximately — the 28th pick, the 55th pick, and the 129th pick. 

Of course, that’s only speaking from a mathematical perspective. The Ravens would likely have to part with an additional pick in 2021 too, if past history is any future indicator. Should there be a bidding war for one of those wideouts, the price would only go up from there. 

The argument, of course, can be made that, when whoever that assortment of picks is stacked against Jeudy or Lamb, the newest wide receiver would outweigh those selections in the later rounds. 

But with a wide receiver class as loaded as this year’s class is, there will certainly be a wide receiver of value, both on the field and in the draft room, when the Ravens pick in the first, second and third rounds. 

Additionally, the Ravens would have to take a good look at the resources they’ve invested into the team if they’re sure about trading up for a wide receiver. Since 2016, the Ravens have picked five times in the first round. Four picks were offensive players — three of whom play skill positions (Jackson, Hayden Hurst and Marquise Brown). 

With the Ravens other, perhaps more pressing needs on the roster, which include interior offensive line, edge rusher and inside linebacker, making a trade to acquire a receiver and diminish the chances of filling the rest of the holes on the roster isn’t something the Ravens should entertain.

When you look at the investments the Ravens have made on offense in recent years, paired with the context of this year’s draft and other team needs across the board, it simply doesn’t make sense to invest even more top resources into more skill positions on the offense.

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