Quest for home playoff game falls flat

So much for controlling their own destiny.

The Ravens entered last night's game having already clinched a playoff spot and knowing that if they won their last three games, they would earn a division title for the first time since 2006, secure a first-round bye and hold home field advantage throughout the postseason.

Then they went out and stunk up the joint.

We knew the Chargers would put up a fight given the way they'd performed in their last two games and the fact that they were playing to keep their playoff hopes alive. But we didn't know that they'd be the only team to show up at Snapdragon Stadium.

With everything on the line, the Ravens looked like they wanted no part of the Chargers last night. They were outmuscled at the point of attack on both sides of the ball (San Diego's seven sacks and Baltimore's none prove that point), couldn't tackle or defend the deep ball and their offensive playcalling appeared incredibly passive compared to the Chargers' high-powered attack.

It was a performance that all-too-closely resembled the previous sleepwalking road losses earlier this season.

Anquan_Boldin-Torrey_Smith-disappointed-sidebar.jpgFor whatever reason, this Ravens team just isn't the same away from M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore is a perfect 7-0 at home on the season, and they're now just 3-4 on the road.

They score more than nine fewer points per game on the road than they do at home (28.4 ppg at M&T, compared to 19.2 on the road), and allow over four points more per contest away from Charm City than they do in the friendly confines (15.0 to 19.2).

Listen, the Ravens aren't alone there. Ask any coach the most difficult part of playing in the NFL and he'll tell you it's finding a way to win on the road.

But those road issues are especially concerning for John Harbaugh's crew given their current situation. We now know that unless the Steelers falter in at least one their last three remaining games, the Ravens will yet again have to fight their way through the playoffs without the benefit of their strong home field advantage.

Any team would prefer to play a postseason game at home, but the thought of that perfect record at M&T Bank Stadium going to waste come playoff time just stings.

The Ravens' best chance to get back into the mix for the AFC North title and first-round bye is if the Steelers fall to the 49ers tonight. If Pittsburgh is able to escape with a win in San Francisco, however, things don't look great for the boys of Baltimore. The Steelers' final two games are against the 2-12 Rams and 4-10 Browns.

Unfortunately, that sweep over the Steelers - while it was fantastic at the time - doesn't mean all that much right now. At this point, the Ravens need to focus on winning their last two and then hope they catch a break.

"We could still get our first-round bye. All that could still happen for us, but we need a little help now," linebacker Terrell Suggs told reporters last night. "We got to go the long way."

It's just a shame that we're back in that spot yet again.

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