USA TODAY Sports
Despite getting thoroughly thrashed 34-17 in front of their home fans by the Denver Broncos, the Baltimore Ravens were literally shoved into the playoffs for the 5th consecutive year.
Thanks to the Dallas Cowboys' 27-24 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens are headed to the post season for the 5th season in a row, the longest curent streak in the NFL. With all the issues surrounding the three consecutive losses, Baltimore will still be playing in January while 20 other teams will be sitting at home, gladly willing to switch places with them.
Who, when and where the Ravens end up playing will not be decided until perhaps as late as the final game of the season. While the Ravens have clinched a playoff berth, they have not clinched the AFC North title - yet. If the Ravens win either of their remaining two games or if the Cincinnati Bengals lose either of theirs, then Baltimore "earns" the division crown for the second straight year.
Ravens fans rooted against the Steelers yesterday, but now will root for them when they host the Bengals next week. A Steelers win in their 1pm (ET) game might have the Ravens aware that they won the AFC North even before they kickoff their game hosting the New York Giants at 4:25pm (ET).
If that happens, then the Ravens week 17 game at the Bengals would not make a difference to Baltimore, although it could determine whether or not Cincinnati or Pittsburgh gets the 6th and final Wild Card spot. At the same time, if the Ravens lose to the Giants and the Bengals beat the Steelers, then their match-up would give the division title to the winner and the Wild Card spot to the loser.
Either way, the Ravens are in the Big Dance once again and while the way they got there this time is not the way they would have liked, they are in and lots of strange things can happen once the post season begins.