Don’t look now, but the Ravens are in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight season.
The Ravens enter Saturday night’s meeting with the Colts at 8-6, and sitting right on the bubble of playoff contention. They’ve forced their way into the conversation by nearly running the table over the last few months. They’ve won four of five before Saturday, and could finish the season a very respectable 10-6 after a 3-4 start.
Missing the playoffs for the third straight year would be a first for coach John Harbaugh, who guided the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons as head coach. 8-8 was not enough to get Baltimore into the bracket last year, and a 5-11 finish two years prior raised eyebrows for a team that is traditionally viewed as a perennial contender.
So what’s the difference? It’s mostly on offense, where Alex Collins has solidified the run game after several years of a revolving door backfield. Collins started training camp with the Seahawks before impressing coaches in Baltimore, and spent time buried on the depth chart before getting his shot in October.
If the Ravens can make the playoffs, they have a good a chance as anybody to make a run. Strong defense and a solid ground game go a long way in January. Baltimore has allowed teams to score more than 20 points just once over the last five weeks.
For a full list of NFL tiebreaking procedures, click here.
Check the current standings, then scroll down to look at Baltimore’s hypotheticals for the postseason:
The Division Leaders:
1. New England Patriots — 11-3
2. Pittsburgh Steelers — 11-3
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — 10-4
4. Kansas City Chiefs — 8-6
The Wild Card Contenders:
5. Tennessee Titans — 8-6
6. Buffalo Bills — 8-6
7. Baltimore Ravens — 8-6
8. LA Chargers — 7-7
Potential Wild Card Matchups:
Bills at Jaguars
Titans at Chiefs
If Baltimore Wins Out
Should the Ravens finish the regular season 10-6, they should have no problem claiming a Wild Card spot. The Titans and Bills are playing the Rams and Patriots respectively, so it’s highly unlikely both teams keep pace. With seven losses apiece, a 10-win Ravens team could cruise into the first Wild Card spot.
If Baltimore Loses Against Cincinnati Next Week
If the Ravens drop a game, things start to get dicey. The Titans hold a head-to-head tiebreaker, but Tennessee closes the season with LA and Jacksonville. The biggest competition could be the surging Chargers, who finish with the Jets and Raiders and could easily fill the final spot at 9-7. It would be a disappointment, but the Ravens should conceivably still be in good shape to make the playoffs at 9-7.