OWINGS MILLS – By virtue of the undefeated Indianapolis Colts’ decision to pull out all the stops in a game that didn’t hold any playoff stakes for them, the Baltimore Ravens’ playoff outlook has been strengthened considerably.
The Colts’ 35-31 victory Thursday night over the Jacksonville Jaguars boosted the Ravens into possession of the sixth and final AFC playoff spot.
The development gives the Ravens (7-6) the edge for the second wild-card spot due to a superior conference record of 6-4 over the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets.
And if the Ravens win their final three games against the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders, they’re virtually assured of going back to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
“That’s awesome,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “It’s in our hands. We just have to win out. You want it to be in your hands. You don’t want to count on other people to help you.”
There is one scenario where the Ravens could miss the playoffs even if they finish 10-6.
If the Dolphins win the AFC East title, the New England Patriots would get the wild card.
If the Ravens finish 10-6 overall and 8-4 in AFC contests, they would own tiebreaker edges over the Dolphins and the Jets regardless of whether they both win out.
If the Ravens, Patriots and another team are all tied at 10-6, the Ravens would rank ahead of the Patriots due to a better record in the AFC.
At 10-6, Miami and Baltimore would have identical AFC records.
However, the Ravens would get the nod because of a better record against common opponents and a superior conference record to the Jets.
“We were secretly cheering for them,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said of the Colts. “They got something they’re trying to accomplish. It just happened to be in our favor.
“All we’ve got to do is win. We’ve been in this situation a few times. The only thing that matters is Sunday.”
The Ravens haven’t lost a game to a team with a losing record since coach John Harbaugh took over last season.
All of their remaining opponents have losing marks with a combined record of 15-24.
The Dolphins close out the season against the Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Jets finish against the Atlanta Falcons, Colts and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Colts dropped the Jaguars to 7-7 on the season.
“It was really exciting to watch and obviously we were pulling for the Colts,” Harbaugh said. “But nothing changes for us, that’s the thing. You watch the game and you kind of get into it and you get a little excited about it and then it’s over.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.