Fact: Ravens still very much in AFC playoff hunt

November 24, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Since about 4:16 pm on Sunday, I’ve heard A LOT of this around town:  ”Well, so much for the Ravens playoff chances this year.”

I guess most of the people saying or writing that either don’t have good memories, don’t understand how sports work or, perhaps, they’re just not willing to take 30 minutes to review what happened right around this time last year.

If you’re in the camp that says, “The Ravens are done for this season”, allow me to go ahead and set you straight.  What you do with the information after this is up to you, but, at least for the time being, I’ll go ahead and bring you back to reality. 

This time last year, the NFL was into week #12.  

Here’s just a quick synopsis of a few games that took place on Sunday, November 23.

  • The Tampa Bay Bucs won at Detroit, 38-20, to improve to 8-3 on the year and remain in a first place tie with the Carolina Panthers in the NFC South.  In that game, the Bucs trailed 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.
  • The New Jets went to Nashville and handed the Titans their first loss of the year, 31-14, improving to 8-3 and moving into first place in the AFC East, two full games ahead of the Dolphins (6-5).
  • Speaking of the Dolphins, they were hammered at home by Matt Cassel & Company, losing 48-28 to the Patriots, who moved a full-game ahead of Miami at 7-4.  
  • The Giants did the unthinkable and went West and won, beating Arizona, 39-27 to improve to 10-1 on the season. 
  • In Atlanta, the Panthers were humbled by the Falcons, 45-28 to fall to 8-3 on the year.  Atlanta kept its playoff hopes alive with the win, improving to 7-4. 
  • Dallas upped its record to 7-4 in the NFC East win a home win over San Francisco.
  • And in Baltimore, the Eagles threw in the towel early and Donovan McNabb was benched at the half as the Ravens scored 24 points in the final quarter to pull away and win, 36-7.  The loss dropped the Eagles to 5-5-1.              
  • Despite losing to the Raiders at home to fall to 6-5, the Broncos were comfortably on top in the AFC West after the Chargers were knocked off in San Diego by Indianapolis, dropping Philip Rivers & Company to 4-7.                      

After week 12, you could have reasonably assumed this:  

Philadelphia was all but done, given their dismal performance in Baltimore and a tie with the lowly Bengals the week before.  

The Cowboys were in great shape at 7-4.

Tampa Bay was in control of the NFC South at 8-3.

Miami, at 6-5, trailed both the Jets and New England in the AFC East.  Things weren’t looking good for the Fish.

San Diego was on the verge of being done at 4-7…and Denver was humming along at 6-5. 

That’s how things looked in Week #12 of the 2008 season.

Here’s a quick review of the NFL two months later:

Those same 5-5-1 Philadelphia Eagles of week #12 won playoff games in Minnesota and New York to advance to the NFC Championship game against — the Arizona Cardinals team that got thumped in week #12 at home by those New York Giants.

The New Jets — in first place in the AFC East — finished the season at 9-7 and missed the playoffs by two full games. 

Denver lost to San Diego on the final weekend of the season and missed the playoffs as well.  San Diego was 4-8 with 4 games to play…won their last 4 games to get in…and then BEAT Indianapolis in the first round of the post-season in San Diego.  

Tampa Bay was 9-3 with four games to play and in complete control of their destiny and lost their last four to miss the post-season.  

The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs, losing their final regular season game in Philly.

The Sheila Dixon trial didn’t have this much evidence to present last week.

You get the picture?

This playoff race is FAR from over as far as the Ravens are concerned.

They’re 5-5.  By my count, only TWO teams (out of six spots available) are absolute locks:  Indy and New England. 

Any of you out there right now want to bet your next month’s mortgage payment that the Bengals make the playoffs?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

There’s no sense in doing the week-by-week drill as it relates to the schedule for all the teams because it only serves to make people look 3-4 weeks ahead when, in all reality, the playoff picture changes EVERY weekend. 

Here’s the truth:  After last night’s win in Houston, the Tennessee Titans are now 4-6 — and they’re actually back in the post-season picture.  At this point, with so many teams vying for two spots, there’s a fairly decent chance that 9-7 might earn a Wild Card berth.

We CAN look at this weekend’s AFC games and see how muddled the whole thing looks.

Denver (6-4) plays the Giants on Thursday.  That could go either way.

Miami (5-5) plays at Buffalo on Sunday.  That could go either way.

Jacksonville (6-4) plays at San Francisco.  That could go either way.

The Jets (4-6) host Carolina.  That could go either way.

Houston (5-5) hosts Indianapolis.  Tough task for the Texans there.

Tennessee (4-6) hosts Arizona on Sunday.  HUGE game for the Titans’ playoff hopes.

And, of course, the Ravens host Pittsburgh. 

Check back with me on Monday and we’ll see where everyone stands.

I know this: I guarantee you the picture changes next weekend.

Again.

And I also know this:  All you have to do is win games and you keep yourself in the race.

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