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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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Would Ravens fans welcome Steelers WR Antonio Brown?

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USA TODAY Sports

Would Ravens fans welcome Steelers WR Antonio Brown?

If there’s one Raven who knows just how difficult it is to cover Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, it’s Marlon Humphrey.

The second-year cornerback out of Alabama rose to the top of the team’s depth chart in the secondary this season and was rewarded with the chance to cover the consensus top pass catcher in football over the last half-decade.

It’s not newsworthy to tell you that Antonio Brown is an elite receiver. In Week 14 of the 2017 season, with top CB Jimmy Smith on the bench, Brown roasted the Ravens secondary for 213 yards on 11 catches. And in two games this past season with Humphrey following him, Brown combined for 104 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown in each game. 

What is newsworthy is the Steelers potentially shopping Brown, after numerous reports of locker room struggles and diva qualities from the star. And since he knows just how dangerous Brown can be, it makes sense that Humphrey would prefer to see him in purple and black.

Fans of every team have imagined what it would be like to see Brown in their colors, scoring touchdowns and racking up big yardage. It’s no surprise that players would imagine it as well.

He hasn't had fewer than 1,284 yards or 8 touchdowns in any season since 2012, but Brown will be 31 by the start of next season, so there probably aren't too many elite seasons left. For the time being, however, Brown would be a major addition for any team.

That goes double for the Ravens, who would A) take a playmaker away from their biggest rivals, and B) finally give themselves a star receiver, something they haven’t had on the roster since Anquan Boldin during the Super Bowl run.

While no team wants to add an alleged diva to their locker room, the Ravens have historically believed in the strength and leadership of their veterans, and therefore haven’t shied away from problematic players.

With John Harbaugh running things and Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs in the locker room (none of whom are guaranteed for 2019, to be fair), the Ravens will likely trust their infrastructure and focus on talent when adding to the roster this offseason, and Brown certainly is talented.

Even Humphrey recognizes it’s a longshot, however. Not only would it take a massive haul in draft picks and young talent, but the Ravens would need to create some cap room that’s already needed to fill other holes on the roster.

Plus, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers allowing their best player to go to their most hated rival if they can help it, so Baltimore would likely be forced to overpay even more than other teams to pry away Brown. Even if they could make it happen, how would fans react to adding a player they've hated for so long?

When asked about potentially bringing in both Brown and star running back Le’Veon Bell from Pittsburgh to Baltimore, Humphrey could only laugh.

Some things really would be too good to be true. It’s still fun to speculate, though, and Lamar Jackson throwing up long touchdowns to Brown would be a sight to behold.

If anything else, it’d just be nice to get Brown out of the black and gold. Just ask Marlon Humphrey.

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Ravens vs. Chargers AFC Wild Card: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Ravens vs. Chargers AFC Wild Card: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Baltimore Ravens (10-6) are where they want to be. As AFC North champions, they've earned the right to host a playoff game.

Their reward? Facing the 12-4 Chargers, who just saw this Ravens offense up close two weeks ago.

The Ravens can look at this matchup favorably or negatively, depending on what factors are considered important. If you value a team showing what they can do already, then you probably prefer Baltimore, who dominated the Chargers en route to a 22-10 road victory on short rest in Week 16.

There's something to be said for the Chargers now having experienced this Ravens offense. It won't catch them by surprise. Plus, the Chargers have actually been much better on the road this season, going 7-1 away from their "home" stadium.

The Ravens are 3-1 all-time against the Chargers in Baltimore, and overall under John Harbaugh they're 4-2.

In the Wild Card Round since 2008, the beginning of the John Harbaugh Era, the Ravens are undefeated at 5-0.

Baltimore is still surprisingly healthy, which played a key role in capturing their first AFC North title since 2012. Both sides should have most of their key contributors available come Sunday. 

Deja Vu All Over Again

One of the keys to the Ravens' nice run to end the regular season was their unique style of offense. Most offenses in 2018 average around 65% of their plays through the air, and 35% on the ground. In Baltimore, that number is flipped. Ever since Lamar Jackson entered the starting lineup for the Ravens, a run-heavy approach has followed. 

It's not just the commitment to the ground game, but how they've gone about it, that's impressed. The Ravens use all sorts of misdirection and run-pass options to keep the defense guessing, and then by the time they realize what's happening, Lamar Jackson is already past them, or Gus Edwards is bowling them over.

The advantage the Ravens have had is in how difficult it is to prepare for a run-heavy attack in a pass-heavy world. The Chargers, in particular, are specifically built to stop passing offenses. But the Ravens don't pass.

This is why it's so interesting to see how the rematch goes. It will be the first time in Jackson's short career that a team will be seeing him for a second time. The Chargers won't be fooled by the unorthodox formations and style; they just spent 60 minutes trying to defend it in late December.

It's pretty rare for a rookie quarterback to beat a quality defense twice in the same season, let alone in a rematch coming so quickly. Even just beating a quality defense in the postseason in general is difficult. No rookie quarterback has beaten a defense ranked top 10 in DVOA since Joe Flacco back in 2008. Jackson will have to do something almost unheard of in order for Baltimore to come out on top.

QB Comparison

Philip Rivers, the Chargers' signal-caller, is one of the most prolific quarterbacks of any era. He has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career from every angle except one. He has yet to make a Super Bowl run, and he won't have many more opportunities as he nears 40.

When it comes to experience, Rivers dwarfs what Jackson can bring to the table. Rivers has been in the league since 2004. Jackson is about to become the youngest starting quarterback in NFL postseason history, with his 22nd birthday on Monday. Rivers has played in an AFC Championship Game before. Jackson, obviously has never played in January.

Their styles of play could hardly be much different, either. In the first meeting between these two teams, Jackson threw for 204 yards, which is currently his career high. Rivers regularly tops 300 passing yards. Jackson just set the single season record for quarterback rushes, a remarkable feat considering he only made seven starts. Rivers is a pure pocket passer who much prefers checkdowns to scrambles.

Rivers struggled mightily against the Ravens in Week 16, throwing for just 181 yards, to go along with two interceptions and no touchdowns for the first time all season. Many of his issues stemmed from the pressure the Ravens were able to get, as he was sacked four times and hit countless others. With his lack of mobility, Rivers relies on a clean pocket more than a quarterback like Jackson, and if the defensive line can show up in a big way again, he could be in for another long afternoon.

Set Your Alarms

Everyone knew the Chargers would have to go on the road as a wild card team if they couldn't overtake the Kansas City Chiefs, despite their superior record to the Ravens. What has Los Angeles crying foul even more so is the timing of the game. The Chargers, who play on the west coast, are playing the Ravens at 1 p.m. Eastern. Which means their body clocks will be at 10 a.m. for kickoff. 

West coast teams notoriously struggle when playing early on the East coast, so the Ravens will hope to jump on the Chargers early as they "wake up" during the first half. This could end up especially crucial when you consider how much the Ravens rely on controlling the tempo of the game. 

What the Chargers (and any team facing Baltimore) wants to do more than anything is get off to an early lead, forcing to the Ravens to consider abandoning their extreme run-heavy approach. The truth is, we don't know exactly how the Ravens would respond to being down two touchdowns early, because it just hasn't happened in the Lamar Jackson Era. 

The early start time could make this less of a concern for the Ravens, Of course, that may just be wishful thinking. As we mentioned earlier, the Chargers have had a ton of success on the road this season, and that includes games on the East coast.

Either way, the Ravens will be in for a tough battle. The Chargers won't be an easy out, and a betting line of Ravens -3 at home shows that Vegas views these two as essentially even. 

If the Ravens can continue to control the time of possession, prevent big plays from the Chargers, and turn Philip Rivers over once or twice, it's hard to imagine their winning formula failing them now. It's a balancing act, though, and any one play going the wrong direction could be devastating. Postseason football is finally back in Charm City, and this team certainly doesn't want to see it end just as soon as it began.

Click here to see the Ravens-Chargers injury report. Here's everything you need to know.

Ravens vs. Chargers AFC North Wild Card How to Watch:

Who: Baltimore Ravens vs. Los Angeles Chargers

What: AFC Wild Card Round

When: Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, 1:05 p.m. ET

Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.

TV Channel: CBS

Live Stream: Watch Now with fuboTV - Try free trial

Radio: WBAL New Radio 1090 and 98Rock

Weather: 51 degrees, mainly sunny, 10 mph winds

Ravens 2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sun., 9/9. Ravens vs. Bills. Win, 47-3 (1-0)

Week 2: Thur., 9/13 Ravens at Bengals. Loss, 34-23 (1-1)

Week 3: Sun., 9/23 Ravens vs. Broncos. Win, 27-14 (2-1)

Week 4: Sun., 9/30 Ravens at Steelers. Win, 26-14 (3-1)

Week 5: Sun., 10/7 Ravens at Browns. Loss, 12-9 (3-2)

Week 6: Sun., 10/14 Ravens at Titans. Win, 21-0 (4-2)

Week 7: Sun., 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m. Loss, 24-23 (4-3)

Week 8: Sun., 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m. Loss 36-21 (4-4)

Week 9: Sun., 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m. Loss 23-16 (4-5)

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sun., 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m. Win 24-21 (5-5)

Week 12: Sun., 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m. Win 34-17 (6-5)

Week 13: Sun., 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m. Win 26-16 (7-5)

Week 14: Sun., 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m. Loss 27-24 (7-6)

Week 15: Sun., 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m., Win 20-12 (8-6)

Week 16: Sat., 12/22 @ Chargers, 8:20 p.m. Win 22-10 (9-6)

Week 17: Sun., 12/30 vs. Browns, 4:25 p.m. (10-6, AFC North Champions)