In spite of John Harbaugh’s bad-PR-man impression after the Patriots game debacle in which he suggested that “nothing’s changed” for the Ravens as far as the playoffs, there is actually some precedent in miracle final-Sunday results for teams appearing to be on the outside looking in.
In one strange, ironic twist the Ravens actually have to look no further than two of the players with direct correlation to their playoff chances – Chiefs coach Andy Reid and the Cincinnati Bengals – for a little inspiration.
Of course, despite Harbaugh’s silly contention, the Ravens need to win and get help to have a shot at the playoffs – eons have changed in just a week. Given that Reid’s Chiefs may or may not sleep through their road game against the Chargers with backups to prepare for the playoffs, and the Dolphins certainly have a huge advantage at home against the Jets, the odds are long, but not impossible.
In 2008, Reid’s Eagles came to the final game of the season (against Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys) knowing that a lot of things needed to go their way to even make the game meaningful.
The Eagles that year needed both the Buccaneers and Bears to lose, then they also had to beat the Cowboys in a winner-take-all to get the NFC’s 6th and final seed. Percentage-wise the Eagles had the lowest playoff possibility of any contending team heading into the final weekend.
The good news came early for the Eagles when both the Bucs and Bears lost early games before Philadelphia even took the field against the Cowboys. Then the inspired Philly team came out in front of their home crowd and played the type of football game Ravens fans had expected to see against the Patriots Sunday in a comical 44-6 win against Dallas.
In the 2011 season, the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens were scheduled to play a 1pm game on New Year’s Day, but that was moved up to 4pm when the NFL deemed it important to do so because of the playoff implications in the game.
For the Bengals to make the playoffs they needed to have both the Jets and Raiders lose before they could get a playoff spot if they did not defeat the Ravens. The Jets helped them out with a loss early in the day.
As the game began against Baltimore, the Bengals trailed quickly after a 70-yard TD burst by Ray Rice, but their hopes brightened considerably when Tim Tebow’s Broncos kept things close with Oakland in those teams’ 4pm game.
As things got worse for the Bengals, fans began scoreboard-watching, and suddenly let out a roar in Paul Brown Stadium when the Jumbo-Tron showed that the Broncos had ended up defeating the Raiders. Despite their loss, the Bengals had backed into the playoffs.
This year, with a highly-unlikely but still plausible scenario that would allow the Bengals to clinch the #2 playoff seed if somehow the Patriots lost to the Bills at home Sunday, the Cincy Cats aren’t likely to rest their starters the whole game, but that probably will happen if the Pats game is, as expected, looking like a blowout.
Reid is taking a lot of heat for suggesting he might rest starters from all sides including media pundits, Hall of Fame coach John Madden, and even his own players before Sunday’s game.
Madden said on his SiriusXM radio show that “you don’t rest guys unless they’re hurt.” Chiefs QB Alex Smith said, “You want to have some good rhythm, a good taste in your mouth headed into the playoffs.” After the Chiefs’ home blowout loss to the Colts on Sunday Smith said, “I’d like to get this taste out of our mouths.”
However, the Miami Herald is reporting that the Chiefs will indeed rest their starters on Sunday in what can only be good news for the San Diego Chargers, who are hoping to sneak into the playoffs over the Dolphins and the Ravens.
Yet, this doesn’t mean the Jets will take the game off against the ‘Phins with Rex Ryan coaching apparently for his job – and maybe even a Jets win will not be enough to save the former Ravens defensive coordinator. Yet the Jets still face a tough game on the road in Miami, but they will surely at least show up for the game.
So the good news is that recent history suggests that the Ravens – if they can get their own business sorted out against the Bengals – will have at least a fighting chance of still making the playoffs. They may just get in, however undeserving the playoff ticket will be, after napping through their worst home defeat in team history on Sunday.