The Ravens are two wins from an 11-5 season — and it might not be enough
Ravens are two wins of 11-5 - and it might not be enough, originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Ravens are right on the doorstep of an 11-5 season as long as they take care of business against a New York Giants team they want to beat double digits and a Cincinnati Bengals team that is currently third for the season to prove NFL draft.
The problem for Baltimore is that there is one outside shot where both wins may not be enough.
It's certainly on the ravens' minds, even if they say they can only focus on one game at a time.
"My personal mentality is to attack one by one every day and understand that we can only play one game at a time," said Orlando Brown Jr. "So right now I'm focusing on the Giants and going out and playing the best game my career, the way I try every week. In the long run we understand the playoffs are there and it's important to get there, but it's important that we win the next game and the next game and the next game. "
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Ravens currently have an 87% chance of reaching the playoffs. And the only way for the Ravens to miss the playoffs with wins in the last two weeks is for the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts to win all of their last two games and the Tennessee Titans to win one of their last two games.
The Dolphins finish with the Las Vegas Raiders and Buffalo Bills - a tough slate, but the Raiders' playoff hopes are all but over and the Bills may rest in week 17. The Browns quit with the New York Jets playing for them the No. 1 draft pick and the Pittsburgh Steelers who suddenly slipped with three straight losses. The Colts end with the fighting Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who also line up for that popular # 1 draft pick because they're so bad. The Titans end with the Green Bay Packers, likely the number one seed in the NFC, and the chaotic, unpredictable Houston Texans.
If the Ravens beat the Giants and Bengals, their playoff percentage rises to 97 percent as they only need one loss from these three teams or two losses from the Titans.
There's also a strange scenario where the Ravens lose to the Giants who beat the Bengals and still make it to the playoffs 10-6 if the Dolphins lose one of their last two games. Should the Ravens beat the Giants and lose to the Bengals, they are almost certain to be eliminated from the playoffs.
"It seems like we need help from a lot of teams, but I'm not sure which teams these are exactly, but I know we just have to win to get the best shot," said cornerback Marlon Humphrey. "I know there are certain scenarios where we don't win, but the biggest goal is just to win."
If the unlikely scenario plays out and the Ravens are on their couch for the playoffs, even if they drop one of their last two games, they are sure to be one of the best teams in NFL history to miss the postseason party.
The last time a 10-6 team missed the playoffs was in 2015, when the Jets did that inglorious feat - in the league's current seven-team playoff format, they would have done it. The last 11-5 team to miss the playoffs was in 2008, when the New England Patriots stayed at home. Ironically, they were beaten by the Ravens for last 6th place because of the conference percentage win.
Either way, it would be one of the most unique and confusing playoff mistakes in recent history.
Before week 16, the Ravens have the second best point differential in the league with +116, just behind the 13-1 Chiefs. They are in front of the 11-3 Steelers (+102), 10-4 Saints (+100) and 11-3 Packers (+95).
All of this could be controversial in due course as they are extremely unlikely to be home for the second weekend of January.
That doesn't make it easier, however, not to nervously glimpse the scoreboard outside of town at least a few times in the last two weeks of the season.
"To be honest, we'll just let it take care of itself," said quarterback Lamar Jackson. "We don't focus on the outside world or other teams and the like. We focus on ourselves because we can't climax too early and we can't climax too soon right now. We just have to focus on the Giants, because this is a good team that we will face on Sunday. "
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