Before the Baltimore Ravens head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers on Christmas night, another big game will take place on Christmas Eve that features two former Ravens trying to fight off a lot of scrutiny and questions about their future. It is a game that will impact where the Ravens will stand in the AFC playoff picture once the team takes the field the next day. On Christmas Eve, the Rex Ryan and Tyrod Taylor led Buffalo Bills will take on their AFC East rival and current holder of the final playoff spot in the AFC, the Miami Dolphins, at 1pm in what is sure to be a cold and frigid afternoon at New Era Field.
If the Dolphins win, all they need is a Ravens loss to not only secure the final wild card spot, but knock the Ravens out of the playoffs entirely. Baltimore will hope that the Bills starting quarterback and head coach can help out their former organization anyway they can, but it won't come easy. Not only are the Dolphins a very good football team, the Bills are very uncertain about the future of both their head coach and quarterback, which usually leads to an awkward situation in the locker room and becomes a team distraction.
Both Ryan and Taylor were in Baltimore at separate periods of time. Ryan was on the Ravens defensive coaching staff from 1999-2008, and Taylor was the backup quarterback to Joe Flacco from 2011-2014, and have both worked extremely hard to get their opportunities and will always have strong ties to the Ravens organization. Unfortunately, it has not been easy for both Ryan and Taylor. Ryan's head coaching career got off to a hot start when he coached the New York Jets to two straight AFC Championship Game appearances in 2009 and 2010. Since then with both the Jets and Bills, Ryan has missed the playoffs each of the last six seasons and is in serious danger of missing the playoffs again in 2016.
Tyrod Taylor also got off to a good start after signing a contract with the Bills during the 2015 offseason and following Rex Ryan to Buffalo. During his first year as a starting quarterback, Taylor showed promise and was rewarded with a contract extension this offseason for 5-years and $92 million. However, the contract was later to be revealed as essentially a 1-year, $9.7 million deal and it gave the Bills flexibility to cut Taylor after this season if he struggled because he will be owed $30 million if they decide to retain him. Just like with his head coach, Taylor has had a rough second year, and talks about the Bills possibly looking for a new quarterback next offseason have emerged.
With endless chatter all across Orchard Park and the recent report by ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Bills will part ways with Rex Ryan after the conclusion of the season, it may seem like a tall order for the Bills to pull out a win over a red-hot Dolphins team that is fighting for their playoff lives. Which will be a bad sign for the Ravens. Baltimore must hope that their former defensive coordinator and former backup quarterback can put all of those distractions aside and, just like last year with the New York Jets, play spoiler to an AFC East foe while greatly assisting their former team in the process. What does work in the Ravens favor is the fact that Taylor and Ryan have a lot to prove over their last two games of the 2016 season not just because of job security, but the fact that the Bills themselves are not mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
In the end, the Ravens playoff fate is in their own hands, but a little help from your friends doesn't hurt. Especially with two games remaining in this roller coaster season.
As the late great Tim Russert would say, "Go Bills."