Many continue to scoff at any mention of the Ravens’ chances in the AFC’s muddled wild-card race.
It’s understandable when focusing exclusively on a 4-5 team that has lost five of its last seven games and ranks last in the NFL in passing offense. A game below .500 less than two weeks from Thanksgiving, the Ravens epitomize mediocrity and hardly look like an outfit capable of going on a meaningful run when they haven’t even won back-to-back games in two months.
But if not the Ravens, who do you like in the race for the second wild card if we’re going to concede Tennessee and Jacksonville — both currently hold two-game leads and head-to-head tiebreakers over Baltimore — as playoff teams out of the AFC South?
Are you really a believer in the 5-4 Buffalo Bills, who just lost their last two games by a combined 50 points and still have two games against New England as well as a trip to Kansas City down the stretch?
What about Miami, who enters Monday night sporting a minus-63 point differential and might have been the most fraudulent 4-2 team ever to come to M&T Bank Stadium a few weeks ago? Oh yeah, the Dolphins also have two games remaining with the Patriots as well as trips to Kansas City and Buffalo on their schedule.
Oakland might be the most talented team of the mediocre bunch vying for the No. 6 seed, but a 4-5 record, remaining games against New England, Kansas City, and Philadelphia, and three road games in four weeks to conclude the regular season create a hell of a mountain to climb. The Raiders will certainly deserve it if they’re the last team standing.
And, oh yeah, the Ravens own head-to-head tiebreakers over the Dolphins and the Raiders if it comes to that.
In contrast, Baltimore plays only three more teams currently sporting winning records. And one of those is deceiving with Brett Hundley now leading the way for Green Bay after Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone injury last month.
Four of the seven remaining contests come against teams with a backup or rookie currently playing quarterback.
Of course, the Ravens must show some improvement the rest of the way to take advantage of one of their most advantageous schedules in recent memory. It sounds great to say they could be favored in each of their remaining games aside from the Dec. 10 trip to Pittsburgh, but the Ravens have also played poorly enough at times this season to consider any of those a potential loss.
No, you don’t have to like the Ravens’ playoff chances to accept their odds being better than the other middling teams in the AFC pack. It’s just reality in a conference with little separation once you move past the three teams at the top.
The Ravens haven’t been a good team, but they may not have to be good to make the playoffs. They just have to be a smidge better than the rest of the mediocre bunch.
It couldn’t set up much better on paper for them to do that.
Time will tell if they’re capable enough to take advantage.