LANDOVER, Md. - Whether the Ravens want to admit it or not, the fact that the Steelers and Bengals both lost Sunday had to make their late collapse at FedEx Field sting a little more.
Had Baltimore been able to tack on one more score or kept the Redskins from reaching the red zone on the final drive of regulation, it would have the AFC North title and a playoff berth secured.
Instead, the Ravens head into a difficult final three weeks of the regular season in a far less comfortable position than they were three weeks ago.
Back then, all the Ravens needed was a win over the Steelers and a Bengals loss, and the division was theirs with the AFC’s top seed in sight. Now, Baltimore is in danger of slipping to the fourth seed in the conference and not even escaping Wild Card weekend.
Here’s a quick glance at the AFC standings heading into tomorrow’s date between New England and Houston:
1. Houston Texans, 11-1
2. Denver Broncos, 10-3
3. New England Patriots, 9-3
4. Baltimore Ravens, 9-4
5. Indianapolis Colts, 9-4
6. Pittsburgh Steelers, 7-6
7. Cincinnati Bengals, 7-6
So the Ravens have a two-game division lead with three contests to play. The NFL will unveil official playoff scenarios early this week, but if my math is correct, Baltimore can clinch a playoff berth with a win next Sunday and a loss or tie by either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.
The Ravens can clinch the division with a win and losses by both teams.
So tailback Ray Rice doesn’t view the Ravens’ situation as dire.
“The shape we’re in right now is we still have playoff hopes and we’re still in first place in the AFC North,” Rice said. “We’re still a playoff-contending team. We just have to go ahead, get to that magic number - whatever it is - and try to win games.
“What Cincinnati and Pittsburgh did today means nothing to me. It absolutely means nothing. I like to win with the team that we’re playing. I’m not going to sit back and watch our playoff fate based on other teams. I can give two craps about what another team does. I’m focused on the Baltimore Ravens. Obviously, a little help here and there helps. But it’s not something I pride (myself) on. We pride ourselves on beating people and going into the playoff strong, and we’ve got to get ourselves back.”
Coach John Harbaugh called Sunday’s loss disappointing, hard and tough.
But he also isn’t sulking about the fact that a playoff spot isn’t wrapped up yet.
“We’re not going to be disheartened. We understand what we’re fighting for,” Harbaugh said. “I think we understand where we’ve got to go to get better as a football team, the things we have to do to be the football team that we want to be in December.”
Harbaugh also said the Ravens suffered a handful of injuries in the loss.
Linebacker Jameel McClain hurt his neck, but X-rays were negative. Fullback Vonta Leach sprained his ankle. Rice sustained a hip pointer. Offensive lineman Marshal Yanda also sprained his right ankle and was in a walking boot after the game.