Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
We’ve ruled out Miami and boosted the Chargers, so where does that leave the Ravens? The final wildcard spot in the AFC is up for grabs and dissension abounds. Dan Salem and Todd Salem tackle this topic head on in part two of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate sports.
The Baltimore Ravens have the toughest schedule remaining out of these three wild card competitors. They must face the New England Patriots this weekend and then travel to the Cincinnati Bengals for week 17. However, they have a number of things going for them.
1. They have the tiebreaker over the Miami Dolphins because they beat the them in week five.
2. They have a one game lead over the San Diego Chargers.
3. They also have the tiebreaker over the Chargers at the moment because of their better conference record (6-4 versus 4-6).
(If all three teams finished tied, consult someone smarter than me to determine how a three-way wild card tie is determined when the three teams haven’t all played each other.)
4. The Ravens are experienced. More on this in a second.
5. The Ravens are HOT, having won four in a row.
Now come the caveats, because everyone is aware that Baltimore has had their troubles this season, namely on the offensive end. The Ravens being hot is absolutely true. But that temperature is probably around 70 degrees, rather than say, 99 degrees. They are hot only in the fact that they keep winning. Their offense still looks horrendous outside of kicker Justin Tucker (MVP!).
Let’s take a look at those last four wins for Baltimore. The Jets game in week 12, Baltimore scored 19 points on one touchdown and four Tucker field goals.
Week 13 against Pittsburgh, the Ravens scored 22, won by just two points, and managed just one touchdown again, to go along with FIVE more Tucker field goals.
Week 14 against Minnesota was a three-point win for Baltimore that saw them score 29 points on all touchdowns, finally.
Then again last week, scoring 18 points in a two-point victory over Detroit, Baltimore failed to capture even a single touchdown, as Justin Tucker kicked SIX more field goals!The obvious takeaways from the season thus far are that Baltimore is good in two departments: defense and special teams. They struggle on offense and struggle is much too kind of a word to even describe their running game, which is dead last in the NFL as far as yards per attempt is concerned.As you hinted at, I like San Diego better just in terms of feeling confident they can drive down the field and score near the end of a playoff game, but then we come back to point number four above. Baltimore is the defending Super Bowl
champ! Doesn’t that give them the benefit of the doubt? Now I don’t want it to sound like them going on a historic run last year means they will do it again. But knowing how to do such a thing would obviously help when attempting to repeat it. Announcers and analysts were going crazy during the week about Baltimore being BACK and not sleeping on the Ravens. This is over the line. You’re allowed to sleep on anyone who can’t get in the endzone. However, as far as the sixth AFC playoff spot is concerned, the Ravens are BACK…as the wild card team.Ravens are IN.
Yeah, the Ravens will be OUT and their title defense will end in week 17 with a loss at the Bengals. I see three huge problems for the Ravens and any two of the three will keep them from reaching the postseason.The Ravens will be underdogs in both of their final games, facing two playoff teams. The Patriots never lose two straight, so we can chalk one loss on the board for the Ravens this week. Their final game versus the Bengals will be equally as challenging and another potential loss against a high-powered offense. I see two losses in their future.The Ravens have a horrendous running game, critical for late season success. They have been on an incredible lucky streak the last four weeks over the winning streak. Field goals rarely win games on a consistent basis, so the law of averages puts balance in favor of some Raven’s losses. And if they can’t control the clock or score more than three points a pop, they have no shot at beating the Patriots or the Bengals.Joe Flacco is now battling an ACL sprain, a lingering injury that will make an otherwise immobile quarterback into a statue. I can see it now, Joe Flacco takes two steps, waits, waits, waits… gets sacked. He’s not ducking to avoid the pass rush, let alone scrambling for a half yard. If the Raven’s offense was poor before the injury, its will sink quite a bit lower now.
As an NFL fan I love a solid title defense. I also enjoy good defense in the playoffs, but Baltimore isn’t qualifying. They may hold the tiebreakers, but luck and momentum are no longer on their side. The playoff teams in the AFC are a wrap. Chargers IN, Baltimore and Miami OUT.
[Part one - Final AFC playoff spot down to three]