Onto the Stretch Run Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens

Street Talk Onto the Stretch Run

Posted in Street Talk
Print this article

The Ravens are in the enviable position of controlling their own destiny for the AFC North crown and hosting at least one playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium.

If the season ended today, the Ravens (7-2) would be the No. 2 seed behind the New England Patriots (8-1) in the AFC playoffs. If New England slips down the road, Baltimore owns the tie-breaker by virtue of its 37-20 victory in Week 9.

That’s why it’s vital for the Ravens to take down visiting Houston (6-3) on Sunday. If the Texans, who are a 4.5-point underdog, escape with a victory, they could put themselves in position for that first-round bye.

John Harbaugh is not worried about his players’ focus.

“They’ve taken that mindset from the first preseason game and had 100-percent focus on the task at hand – what’s important now. They’ve done that really well,” Harbaugh said. “You just appreciate that about them. They keep it simple, focused and time on task for what’s in front of them. [They’re] not looking left, not looking right. [They’re looking] straight ahead at the challenge in front of them.”

However, even if the Ravens beat Houston, they face some stern challenges the rest of the way to hold onto that No. 2 seed. The surging Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4) are not making life any easier.

Over the final six weeks of the season, the Ravens host the Texans, 49ers, Jets and Steelers, and take the road against the Rams, Bills and Browns. Those teams are a combined 35-28.

New England has an easier slate of games beginning this week. The Patriots have home matchups against the Cowboys, Chiefs, Bills and Dolphins and road games with the Eagles, Texans and Bengals. Those teams are a combined 30-34. 

The Steelers feel they have a chance to take back the AFC North over the final seven weeks, just like the Ravens did last year. Pittsburgh, however, has just two remaining home games, against the Browns and Bills. The Steelers play at Cleveland, Cincinnati, Arizona, New York (Jets) and Baltimore. Those teams are a dismal 21-33. 

The Ravens/Steelers showdown in the regular-season finale can potentially carry a lot of weight. The Ravens would obviously like to avoid playing for their postseason lives on the final day for the third straight year. 

The Patriots are still the favorite to win the Super Bowl at 5/2, followed by the 49ers at 6/1. Both the Ravens and Saints are tied for third at 6/1. Pittsburgh is 80/1, along with the Colts, Panthers and Bills. 

This Ravens team has a different type of swagger than previous incarnations with Lamar Jackson running the show. The second-year quarterback has put himself in the conversation for league MVP.

But that’s not his focus.

Jackson has said numerous times throughout his young career that individual accolades and stats mean nothing if the team doesn’t win.

“The Super Bowl is on my mind,” Jackson said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time. If the MVP comes, it comes. But that’s not my goal.”

That’s exactly the type of talk you want to hear from your leader.

In the meantime, the Ravens are having fun winning games. In the closing seconds of last week’s 49-13 rout of the Bengals, Jackson and several other players were donning sunglasses — the Ravens go Hollywood.

Even Harbaugh had to laugh at that one. He’s proud of the close-knit group. 

“They’re very focused, very serious guys,” Harbaugh said. “They appreciate a free pair of sunglasses just like the next guy,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t even know where those came from. Who had the sunglasses on the sideline? But it’s been that way for a while, not just this year. It dates back to last year. 

“We had the same kind of feeling last year with these guys, and they just continue to get closer. No matter what good thing or triumph or disaster strikes, they treat those two imposters just the same.”

Share This  
Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!