Well, we come to the final game of the regular season with the Ravens actually assured of ending 2008 with a winning record. Whether or not they make the post season is another story, though. Not only do they need to win this game against the playoff bound Jaguars (just another prediction), but now they need to rely on a series of events involving a few other AFC teams in order to mathematically back into the playoffs. While the Steelers, along with the Pats, Colts and Chargers are resting their starters in preparation for the second season, there are still a few other teams competing with the Ravens for that final Wild Card slot. The other teams we will be rooting against are the Titans, Bills, Broncos and perhaps yes, even the Browns. Winning this game alone will just not put the Ravens into the playoffs, which is frustrating, yet exciting compared to last year's debacle of a season.
The good news is that the Jags are already in, having clinched the first Wild Card slot and 5th seed last week, and are getting ready to face either the Colts or Steelers in the first round of the playoffs next week. Therefore, I'm guessing that they will not be playing their first team much more than the first quarter or so. On the flip side, the Ravens will be playing for their playoff lives, and will throw everything, including the kitchen sink at Jacksonville in their desperate attempt to control their own fate. This scenerio will lead to a Ravens victory over the limited Jaguars, although I'm not too sure if Baltimore could win this game if both teams were at even strength. The Jags have been improving each year and are a tough team, with a hard hitting defense and a grind it out offense behind a great running game and an underrated QB in David Garrard (Byron Leftwich who?). The receiving corps have been bolstered and the running game is one of the league's most dangerous, with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew punishing defenses both inside and out.
However, both of these guys won't be in the entire game, much less Garrard. The Ravens defense will be playing for blood and the offense will do whatever they need to do to put points on the board, emptying Cam Cameron's playbook in order to do so. Expect the Ravens to put a clamp on Jacksonville's scoring, while grinding it out behind both Willis McGahee and Ray Rice, with the passing game heating up with the season on the line. The Ravens will win this last game of the regular season due to the much different goals the two teams have coming into this contest. Thankfully, the football scheduling gods must have been looking out for the Ravens when they made the schedule, with the luck that only the Ravens will see this as a must win game.
Ravens: 20 Jaguars: 10
Seaosn Record: 10-6