I’ve been saying this for a while now and the stats are in and will support my claim: Teams that win 10 games in the regular season make the NFL playoffs.
Since the Ravens joined the league in 1996, 109 teams have won 10 regular season games. 106 of those 109 have gone on to make the playoffs. The only three who missed out? Philadelphia in ’96, Miami in ’03 and Kansas City in ’05. Yes, a handful of teams have made the post-season with 9 wins, but far, far more have missed out with 9 wins. And in the talent laden AFC, 9 wins is not going to get it done, unless you somehow win your division with 9 wins. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. In fact, I’m so sure that you’ll need at least 10 wins to make the post-season that I’ll bet ten Chinese lunches to your five that a team with a 9-7 record in the AFC will NOT make the post-season.
Want a stress-free ride into January and post-season play? Win 10 games. It really is that simple.
My own personal “realistic” formula for a 10-win season is 6-2 at home and 4-4 on the road. I think most teams go into the season thinking that’s a very acceptable home/away breakdown. Last year, en route to 13-3, the Ravens went 7-1 at home (losing only to Carolina) and 6-2 on the road. That, clearly, was a fantastic regular season by anyone’s standards.
This year, it’s not going to be that easy. Injuries have already wreaked havoc with the Ravens and their schedule toughens up like Ethan Hawke in the final scene of Training Day as the season goes on. Two meetings with Pittsburgh, Indy, New England, San Diego…etc. – you all know the schedule as well as I do. We can all say it together: “The Ravens aren’t going 13-3 this year”.
When fans start talking about records, they tend to go back in time and bring up years gone by. As the great S.E. Hinton once wrote: “That was then, this is now”. Let’s focus on THIS year. Let’s not talk about the Super Bowl year. Let’s not talk about ’04 when the Ravens were 7-4 and semi-collapsed down the strech to finish 9-7 and miss the post-season. Let’s talk about THIS year. Here’s how simple it is, from my viewpoint. If the Ravens lose either of these next two games (home vs. St. Louis this Sunday and at Buffalo next Sunday), they’re NOT going to make the playoffs this year. Yeah, I know it’s mid-October and it’s awfully early to start talking about “must-win” games as it relates to a team’s playoff chances, but I didn’t set up the schedule, the league did. And the schedule dictates that the Ravens MUST win the next two games or they’re in trouble.
How can I say that? Easy. If they lose one of the next two, they’re 4-3. That means over the last 9 games of the regular season, they can only afford to lose 3 more games to stay within that 10-6 “guaranteed” mark. I don’t know what planet you’re on, but a team that loses to Cleveland and either Buffalo or St. Louis is more than likely going to lose at least four times - in some combination – to Pittsburgh (two games with them), Indy, San Diego, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New England, Seattle and Miami. I’m not sure WHICH four they’d lose, but we can all hazard a guess and we wouldn’t be far off, I assume.
If they win these next two, they’ll be halfway to the magic mark of 10 wins. Many of you are focused on HOW the Ravens have won or lost over the first five weeks of the season, but I assure you the Ravens are FAR more concerned with HOW MANY rather than HOW.
By the way, I assume the Ravens are probably thinking the same thing I’m thinking, only they’d never say it publicly. They know they have to get to 10 wins. And they know the most realistic formula to reach those 10 wins is 6-2 at home and 4-4 on the road. If I’m a dummy and I can figure that out, isn’t it probable to think the experts at Owings Mills can figure it out as well? Sure.
So, as Asia once sang back in the ’80′s…”The Heat Goes On”…the Ravens are now in “must-win” territory over the next two weeks.
Let’s see how they handle that heat. And then, we’ll take a break for the bye week and figure out how they’re going to win 5 of their last 9 to get to that 10-win mark. First, though, it’s the Rams. Then the Bills. Anything less than two wins over the next two weeks will spell doom for the Ravens.
And I’m not saying if they win these two they’re definitely going to make the playoffs. Hell, they could win the next two to get to 5-2 and still finish 9-7 based on the performances we’ve seen so far and the schedule that lies ahead.
Winning these next two doesn’t guarantee a trip to the playoffs, but losing one of the next two just about guarantees they WON’T make the playoffs.
Enjoy the heat.