To get into the playoffs for the sixth year in a row, the Ravens can't just rely on themselves anymore. A 41-7 loss to the Patriots Sunday stripped that from them.
Whether Baltimore wins or loses next week's regular season finale at Cincinnati, it needs some help to crack the top six in the AFC because the Chargers' win and losses by the Ravens and Dolphins forged a three-way tie for the conference's last playoff spot Sunday.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs and his teammates found it quite weird to be in this position.
"It is (strange)," Suggs said. "The whole time up until now had been handle your business and everything will be all right. We let one get away, but we have next week. Thank God for next week."
Said cornerback Corey Graham: "We don't know the situation, as far as the playoff scenarios as of right now. But when you have a loss like this, obviously it hurts. We know how big this game was going into to it, so it's a tough loss for us. But we've got to find a way to just go out there next week and find a way to get a victory. And I don't know what the scenario's like, but hopefully we'll find a way to get it done."
The Ravens, Dolphins and Chargers are all 8-7 and if the postseason started today, the Ravens would not be in the playoffs.
But let's start with the positive and demonstrate how Baltimore can make it with a disclaimer. The NFL's tiebreaking procedures are rather complicated, and the league will lay out the exact scenarios in the morning. But after much conferring with reporters and Ravens media relations officials, here is the understanding of how next week's results could shake out.
Click here to see the full breakdown of the playoff tiebreakers.
Well, one more disclaimer - after reading all this, your brain might hurt a little.
So, without further adieu, how the Ravens go to the postseason.
First of all, the Ravens' best chance to make it is if they win. There's no question about that. If they lose and finish 8-8, they depend on the Jets beating the Dolphins and the Chargers losing to the Chiefs, who are locked into the fifth seed and have nothing to play for.
Baltimore needs to be alone at 9-7, in just a two-way tie with either the Dolphins or Chargers, or in a complicated four-way tie that includes the Jets to claim the second wild card.
The Ravens no longer have a chance to win the division, as the Bengals clinched the AFC North title Sunday by virtue of their win over the Vikings and Baltimore's loss to the Patriots.
So Baltimore can only make the playoffs as the second wild card. And here's how:
* The Ravens take the spot outright with a win and losses by the Chargers to the Chiefs (11-4) and the Dolphins to the Jets (7-8).
* The Ravens are in with a win and a loss by either the Chargers or Dolphins. Baltimore holds the individual tiebreakers with each, as it beat the Dolphins and will have a better conference record than the Chargers. The Ravens would finish 7-5 in the AFC while the Chargers would end 6-6 if both win.
* The Ravens have a small chance to make it with a loss, as both the Chargers and Dolphins would need to lose, forging a four-way tie that brings the Jets into the equation at 8-8. The Jets would eliminate the Dolphins from the conversation by taking second place in the AFC East because of a better division record than Miami. The Jets will have gone 3-3 against division foes while the Dolphins will have finished 2-4. That creates a three-way race between the Ravens, Jets and Chargers for the last playoff spot, and Baltimore would take it because of a better conference record than both. The Jets will finish 5-7 against the AFC with a win next week.
So, did you get all that?
The Steelers, who started 0-4 and are 7-8, are even in the mix for the wild card, but would need to beat the Browns and hope that the Ravens, Chargers and Dolphins all lose. That would create a five-way tie that the Steelers would win because of a better division record than the Ravens and better conference record than the Chargers and Jets.
Having fun yet? Me, too.
Coach John Harbaugh didn't seem too broken up about where the Ravens stand, but it's his job to keep the team grounded.
"Well, that would have been the same situation, I believe. We wouldn't have clinched here anyways with a win," Harbaugh said. "The fact of the matter is it doesn't change too much. We've got to go in there and win. That was pretty much going to be the case no matter what, so that's what we've got to do. We've got to play a lot better than we did today to go in there and win. They play very well at home, obviously. It's a big challenge for us, but I feel like we're up to it."
Tailback Ray Rice has only one focus heading into Cincinnati.
"Just win. I don't know about that help stuff. We just need to take care of business in Cincinnati. That's all we've got to do is win," he said. "... As far as the tiebreakers go next week, what we really control is going out there and we've just got to win. It's a huge game for us. It's probably not a huge game for Cincinnati, but we've still got to go out there and win."