It’s a very simple road for the Baltimore Ravens to make the playoffs: win out.
If the Ravens win their final three games against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and the Cleveland Browns, they will at the very least earn themselves a wild-card spot. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh still play each other, which means one of them will still lose one more game.
If the Ravens (8-5) win out, not only can it give them a wild-card birth, but it can give them the AFC North crown if both Cincinnati (8-4-1) and Pittsburgh (8-5) lose one of their final three games. Again, one of them is going to get a loss because they play each other. So let’s say Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati. The Ravens would need the Steelers to have lost another game before that (the Bengals-Steelers game is Week 17). There are a bunch of other scenarios for the Ravens to make the Playoffs if they drop a game or two that you can read here.
So will the Ravens win their final three games? Let’s break it down.
Week 15: Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)
This one requires very little thought. The Ravens are at home against a rookie quarterback who plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that averages 15.3 points per game. If the Ravens lose to the Jaguars, I will move to Jacksonville and watch all of their games from start to finish.
Week 16: At Houston Texans (7-6)
I may be in the minority, but this game scares the crap out of me. I think it might be because I finally watched the J.J. Watt mic’d up video and have been having nightmares about him standing over Joe Flacco screaming “WOOOOOO!” Not only that, the Texans will take shots down the field to DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson. Hopkins has 19 catches of over 2o yards (tied for fourth in the league) and six catches of over 40 yards (tied for third). The Texans secondary, though, isn’t that much better than the Ravens’. Flacco is hot and the Ravens will ultimately get it done. This won’t be a fun game to go through.
Week 17: Cleveland Browns (7-6)
Thank you, Cleveland Browns. Thank you for the Christmas gift of, in all likelihood, starting Johnny Manziel on the road, in Baltimore, against a crowd that is going to be absolutely insane because a playoff spot is on the line. Manziel might throw three interceptions.
A few weeks ago, it was hard to see the Ravens making the playoffs with no Jimmy Smith or Dennis Pitta. Then the odds seemed even worse when Ngata was suspended. But the Ravens have always been one of the most resilient teams in the NFL under John Harbaugh. If they Ravens stay out of their own way, we will be watching them in January.
UPDATE: Now that we know Ryan Fitzpatrick and back-up Tom Savage are out for Sunday’s game, either Case Keenum or Thad Lewis will be the quarterback. And we saw how Manziel looked on Sunday. That Houston game is no longer terrifying. The Ravens’ chances of making the playoffs just rose to about 90 percent.