Thanks to the pretty thrilling 35-31 victory by the Indianapolis Colts over the Jacksonville Jaguars last night, the Baltimore Ravens are now in the second Wild Card slot in the AFC. I cannot recall rooting so hard for the Colts to win since perhaps 1983 when they were still here in Baltimore! If you watched the game last night, it was non-stop offensive lead changing and not decided until the final minute before Peyton Manning had just earlier performed his magic on a game winning 65 yard TD pass to Reggie Wayne. That TD helped the Ravens as much as any they scored on their own this year.
Now the Ravens only need to win their last three games to ensure a post season berth and a solid chance for revenge in the first round with a matchup with either the Cincinnati Bengals or possibly even the New England Patriots, depending on what those two teams do in the final weeks of the regular season.
At the same time, if you look at all the contenders remaining schedule, it might even be a pretty decent possibility that Baltimore will still make the playoffs with a 9-7 record. With the Chicago Bears this week, followed by two road games at Pittsburgh and Oakland, the Ravens could finish 3-0 and almost definitely 2-1. A 10-6 record would definitely get us in at this point, but surprisingly, a 9-7 record may just be enough as well.
Look at the remaining schedule of the contenders:
Ravens (vs. Chicago, @ Pittsburgh, @ Oakland): Baltimore should go at least 2-1 or possibly 3-0, to finish either 10-6 or 9-7.
Jets (vs. Atlanta, @ Indy, vs. Cincinnati): NY can go either 2-1 or 1-2, as I expect the Colts to play to win after a ten day rest, so they will finish either 9-7 or 8-8)
Steelers (vs. GB, vs. Baltimore, @ Miami): Pittsburgh can go anywhere from 3-0 to 0-3, although easily the toughest remaining schedule would make it more likely that 2-1 would be the most to expect, which leaves them at 8-8.
Jauguars (@ NE, @ Cleveland): Jacksonville should split these two to finish at 8-8.
Broncos (vs. Oakland, @ Philly, vs. KC): Expect the Broncos to lose at the Eagles, so they would finish 10-6 and if they tie the Ravens, we own the tie-breaker by virtue of our win over them.
The 8-8 teams will not have a chance to make the playoffs with so many teams still in the hunt. If none of the teams win out, then it would look like the Denver Broncos would make it as the first Wild card and the #5 seed in the AFC playoffs. Of course, if Baltimore wins out, we will either be the #5 or #6 seed. The Dolphins and Jets have a poorer conference record than the Ravens and if Baltimore wins at either Pittsburgh or Oakland, we will have the better conference record than either of them if we all finish 9-7. That would leave the Jaguars as our biggest competition but they play the New England Patriots in Foxboro in week 16, so hopefully that will knock them out of the picture.
Therefore,as you can now see, while we certainly can do away with all the tie breakers by just winning the remaining games, we would have the best shot of the contenders of still making the post season even if we finish 9-7. However, let's just start of the stretch by taking care of business this Sunday by beating the Bears at home and let the other teams continue to look up at us in the playoff race.