The Ravens don't have to worry about this weekend. They're safe for at least one more round. That's the reward for winning a division title and one of the conference's top two seeds.
There will be at least one more game on the schedule, only against whom? As the No. 2 seed, the Ravens will face either the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos or Pittsburgh Steelers. All three have issues, especially at the quarterback position.
Coaches, players and fans can only sit and watch to find out who will make the trek to Baltimore two Sundays from now. But it's never too early to take a look at which opponent would present the most favorable matchup for the Ravens.
The Texans traveled to M&T Bank Stadium earlier this season and, like the next potential matchup, did so without one of their key players. In the Week 6 contest, Houston was without top receiver Andre Johnson, who missed a bulk of the regular season due to injury. Quarterback Matt Schaub still found a way to gain 220 yards through the air, but a quiet day on the ground and a defense that struggled equated to a 29-14 victory for the Ravens.
Now, should the Texans win this weekend against Cincinnati, they'll return to Charm City without Schaub or Matt Leinart. To put it simply, they're in trouble under center. Rookie third-stringer T.J. Yates will start against the Bengals and the advantage at quarterback would undoubtedly lean toward the Ravens.
No need for a long rant on this squad. These two teams know each other all too well. It seems strange that despite a sweep during the regular season, including a late comeback win in Pittsburgh, these two teams could meet one more time with their seasons on the line. In recent history, that thought has induced nausea on the part of Ravens fans. Pittsburgh has ended Baltimore's season twice in the past three years, including a season ago.
But with a potential home matchup and health issues for the Steelers, this one could swing in favor of revenge. For starters, Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with injuries. OK, no big surprise there, but this latest boo boo has left the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback vulnerable. Roethlisberger missed his team's game against St. Louis with an ankle injury but did return to earn the victory last week in Cleveland. His status for this weekend against Denver is probable, but with no Rashard Mendenhall - out for the season with a torn ACL - defenses should focus their sights on bringing Roethlisberger to the ground.
Of the three potential matchups, the Broncos are the only team the Ravens haven't faced this season, although any few seconds of ESPN coverage certainly will give them an idea of how this team operates. In short, it's Tim Tebow. Who? Just kidding. Tebow's face and highlight reel have been plastered everywhere, as well as his constant struggles throwing the football.
During the Broncos' six-game winning streak, Tebow was never given credit for being a great quarterback, but admirers of his work stressed that he was a "winner." Three straight losses to end the season seemed to have put a damper on that label and Denver fans are suddenly worried about how far this team can go in the playoffs. To be blunt, this is the team Ravens fans should want to see next Sunday for two reasons. First off, playing the Broncos also means the Steelers are already done, a huge sigh of relief for the purple and black. Secondly, Tebow has not shown any progression at the position and while Denver's defense is legitimate, Baltimore's would likely feast on the Broncos' inept and apparently regressing offensive attack.
So who will the Ravens face next week? Who do you want to see them play? We'll find out soon enough.