WHERE THE RAVENS STAND NOW
If the Ravens had been able to defeat the New England Patriots Sunday, the path to the playoffs would be a far easier one – win in Week 17 at Cincinnati and win the AFC North. In fact, they would have even had an opportunity to get in as a wild card with a loss, assuming they had gotten some help in the rest of the conference.
But with the loss, the playoff push is an uphill climb to say the least. The Bengals have clinched the AFC North, but will likely still play their starters next week against the Ravens, in an attempt to get an unlikely first-round bye. There are still four teams in play for the final wild card spot in the AFC, including the Ravens. It’s confusing, so here is the basic gist of what needs to happen next week:
Ravens win at the Bengals and Miami Dolphins lose at home against the New York Jets OR San Diego Chargers lose at home to the Kansas City Chiefs (who are locked in as the 5th seed and may opt to rest their starters).
The Ravens are in this situation because they have the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Dolphins, and a better conference record than the Chargers so if the Ravens can finish tied with either of them, they would get in. However, if all three finish with a win, the Dolphins would win in that case because of a better conference record than the Ravens, which is the tiebreaker among three or more teams.
It’s unlikely, but if the Ravens are defeated in Cincinnati they would not be immediately eliminated. However, their only chance comes if the Dolphins, Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers also lose. In that scenario the Jets and Dolphins have the same record, and Jets eliminate the Dolphins while the Ravens win a three-way tiebreaker against the Jets and Chargers.
Perhaps the worst scenario is if the Ravens, Dolphins, and Chargers all lose. If that happens, and the Steelers win, the most hated rival of the Ravens would eliminate the Ravens and make the postseason because of a better division record, and because they would win a three-team conference tiebreaker with the Jets and Chargers.
FLACCO’S INJURY MAY HAVE SEALED TEAM’S FATE
Heading into Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, Ravens fans were confident they could reach the postseason, in large part because of the clutch and timely play of Joe Flacco. That, unfortunately, just was not the case Sunday though, as the most recent Super Bowl MVP was clearly hampered by a knee injury and his play reflected it. Flacco was less mobile, and he was unable to fully step into his throws.
The Ravens had been red-hot, they looked like a team on a mission, and one that nobody wanted to see if they made the playoffs. But with Flacco clearly not playing at the level he usually is, this is likely too much to overcome. Even when he was healthy, the Ravens struggled at times to score points, and especially struggled in the red zone.
On Sunday the Ravens were shut out until the fourth quarter, and played terribly on offense. While it is still completely possible for the Ravens to make the playoffs, that would likely need a win and help, as explained above. The only issue is, it’s tough to imagine the Ravens beating the Bengals in Cincinnati.
The Bengals play really tough at home, and rarely lose at Paul Brown Stadium. There is nothing they would like more than to crush the Ravens’ playoff hopes Sunday, either. And if Flacco does not feel substantially better next week, the Ravens may be left wondering what could have been if DeAndre Levy had fallen just a little earlier in Detroit.
HARBAUGH DENIES ANY CONSIDERATION OF QB CHANGE
Despite the poor play of quarterback Joe Flacco on Sunday, John Harbaugh never considered that the Ravens would have a better shot to win with backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the game.
After the game, Harbaugh was asked if he had debated putting Taylor in sooner, either because of Flacco’s injury or his ineffectiveness. Harbaugh simply and flatly responded that there was no consideration of pulling Flacco.
Taylor eventually came into the game late in the fourth quarter with the outcome of the game already decided, but did not play well either, as he had a miscommunication on a snap that resulted in a New England defensive touchdown, and later threw a pick-six on the last offensive drive when the Ravens were still trying to score.
The handling of the situation gained praise from ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, who felt that Taylor’s pick-six explained adequately why Flacco was not pulled. Hensley is right – a hobbled Flacco is still better than Taylor, and it saves unnecessary drama of who your starter the following week would be as well.
MONROE MAY BE EXTENDED, OHER MAY BE GONE
Eugene Monroe has played well since coming over to the Ravens from the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for 4th and 5th round draft picks in October. Of late, Monroe has been arguably the most stable piece of the offensive line.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that the Ravens are already beginning to make an effort to give Monroe an extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Jason La Canfora says that the Ravens are “hopeful” they can resign Monroe before then.
“The Ravens parted with a fourth and fifth round pick to land Monroe – a steep price for a ‘rental’ and especially steep for a team that prizes draft picks as the Ravens do.” La Canfora also says that the efforts to resign Monroe are the writing on the wall for fellow tackle Michael Oher.
Oher has shown over his career that he cannot be a left tackle in this league and even as a right tackle, he is not good in pass protection. He also commits more penalties than most right tackles, and the Ravens are unlikely to want to give him a big deal. Oher is seeking to become one of the highest paid players in the league at his position.
The Ravens briefly attempted to discuss an extension with Oher last offseason, but made no substantial progress.