It had to be like this, right?
After these last two lounge-chair wins over the dregs of the NFC North, the season lies in the balance for the Ravens and they’ll have to continue their post-season run in of all places…Pittsburgh.
Jay Cutler won’t be making an appearance for the Steelers next week.
It’s back to varsity football for the Ravens.
But you can’t ask for much more than this if you’re a Ravens fan.
Two straight wins and a handful of Sunday losses by others in the AFC have left the Ravens on the verge of returning to post-season play for the second time in as many years under John Harbaugh.
Check this out: The Ravens could still finish as the #3 seed in the AFC playoff picture. Really, they could. All they’d have to do is win their last two and have Cincinnati lose their last two…and have the AFC East winner finish at 9-7. The Bengals finish with a home game against KC and a road game at the Jets. You want to bet your mortgage payment for January that the Bengals win out? Right. Me neither.
And as easily as the Ravens could win their last two, they could also lose their last two. It’s fair to point out all the realities. The Ravens could go to Pittsburgh and lose and then go to Oakland, sleepwalk through the first half, trail 10-3, and lose 17-16 or something like that.
I’ve seen enough crazy stuff in the NFL this year to say “I have no idea what’s going to happen.”
So I’ll just stick with this: I have NO idea what’s going to happen…over the next two weeks.
This much I do know: A post-Christmas trip to Pittsburgh looked inviting when we saw the schedule for the first time last April.
Now, with the Ravens at 8-6 and the Steelers at 7-7, it’s one of those games you can only dream about.
The last time those two teams met in Pittsburgh, the Steelers ended the Ravens season with a 23-14 win in the AFC title game last January. You can bet the Ravens will have that on their mind all week as they prepare for a trip to the Steel City.
And if not for a Hall-of-Fame-drive by Ben Roethlisberger to lift Pittsburgh to an unlikely win over Green Bay on Sunday, the Steelers season would be all but over. They went from 6-8 and done for the year to 7-7 and having everything to play for with just one throw and catch with no time left on the clock.
It’s that close in the NFL these days.
It either goes your way or it doesn’t.
On Sunday against the Bears, everything the Ravens did was right and everything Jay Cutler did was wrong.
Let’s hope he’s not flying the Chicago team plane home tonight.
He’d probably overfly the airport.
Meanwhile, the Ravens can bask in the glow of this win for about 24 hours. By this time tomorrow, they need to start thinking about the Steelers and how they’re going to kill two birds with one stone next Sunday — a win puts them on the cusp of the playoffs and also eliminates Pittsburgh.
That would be a great gift for everyone in Baltimore.