The Baltimore Ravens playoff hopes took a big hit with their 19-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last Wednesday afternoon. Down approximately nine starters, Baltimore battled hard with the depleted squad they were forced to play due to a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the team. Both Robert Griffin III and Trace McSorley saw action at quarterback in the game as the Ravens dropped their third-straight game for the first time in the Lamar Jackson era.
While there were a lot of positives for the heavily-shorthanded Ravens, the loss was just another example of a frequent trend with Baltimore in 2020. Down 12-7 with 26 seconds left in the first half, a combination of Ravens poor clock management and Steelers unsportsmanlike conduct ended with the Ravens coming away with no points from three plays on the Steelers one-yard line. A touchdown would’ve given the underdog Ravens a 14-12 lead going into halftime. Instead, the 11-play 74-yard drive netted zero points as Baltimore went to the locker room trailing at the half. The Steelers would hold the lead for the remainder of the game.
This was the turning point in a game that saw the Ravens show maybe the most character they have all season. Still, Baltimore now sits on a 6-5 record. They are now two spots out of the third wild card position in the AFC and need to string together an incredible run to make the playoffs.
Battling with the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, and Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore has to likely win their next five games to be assured a playoff spot in 2020. Dropping just one game would likely force the Ravens to rely on tiebreakers to get in. If the Ravens want to secure a playoff spot, they need to win out in 2020.
Baltimore Ravens Playoff Hopes Hinge on Winning the Remainder of Their Games
Winning Out Is a Possibility
The task of winning out is daunting. Winning back-to-back games in the NFL is hard enough and winning five straight is a lot harder. However, it is not out of the question for the Ravens. No game is a sure thing for the Ravens in 2020 but their chances of winning five in a row could not come against a much easier schedule.
Ravens Remaining Schedule:
The five opponents left on Baltimore’s schedule have a combined record of 18-36-1 with the Browns having the only record above .500. They combined for a record of 3-19 against teams that currently sit above .500 — with none of the teams having multiple wins against those teams.
Where the Ravens could run into some problems is against their division opponents. Cleveland is a much-improved team from the one that the Ravens flattened 38-6 Week 1 of the NFL season. Behind a healthy Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Browns currently have the number-one ranked rushing offense in the NFL. Their offensive line is also becoming one of the very best in the game. Wyatt Teller has a great chance at being named an All-Pro guard after a stellar 2020 season and currently has an elite 93.9 overall grade per Pro Football Focus.
Joe Burrow may be out for the remainder of the season but the Ravens have continually struggled to win at Paul Brown Stadium. Since 2012, Baltimore is just 2-6 in the Bengals stadium. However, they are 2-1 in their last three visits with one of those wins coming in Ryan Finley‘s first career start. Finley is the presumed starting quarterback in Cincinnati with Burrow sidelined and is yet to record an NFL victory in five games.
The three remaining games against the Cowboys, Jaguars, and Giants are must-win games. Dallas has the second least yards per play since the injury to Dak Prescott. Jacksonville is on a 10-game losing streak with the third-worst scoring defense and fifth-worst scoring offense. New York has the third-worst scoring offense and fourth-worst total offense.
Why 4-1 May Not Be Good Enough
Every year in the NFL, playoff spots come down to tiebreakers. If the Ravens had lost their final game of the season in 2019 to the Steelers, it would’ve gone down their strength of victory (the fifth-tiebreaker) to determine a playoff spot with the Tennessee Titans. In 2020, the Ravens may be the team looking for tiebreaking help. Baltimore has an easy schedule to end of the year but they should not be banking on their playoff competitors losing too many games.
There is currently a scenario in which each of the Ravens, Colts, Dolphins, and Raiders all finish the season at 10-6. If this were to happen there would be a four-way tie for the remaining two wild-card spots in the AFC. Outside of the Ravens at Colts game Week 9, there have been no common games between the four teams. The upcoming common games between teams are Colts at Raiders Week 14 and Dolphins at Raiders Week 16. Their individual records against AFC teams are as follows:
In order of current standing
6. Miami Dolphins (7-4): 4-3
7. Indianapolis Colts (7-4) : 3-4
8. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5): 4-3
9. Baltimore Ravens (6-5): 4-5
Each team other than the Ravens will face at least two teams with a record of .500 or better. As previously mentioned, two of those come against the three teams labeled above — disallowing each team to win all of their remaining five games. Winning out is a possibility for any team but the scenario seems far less likely for each of the Dolphins, Colts, and Raiders.
In the more likely scenario in which each team (or three of the four teams) finishes with a 10-6 record, the Ravens would likely have to win all of their games against AFC opponents. Otherwise, their record within the AFC would stand at 6-6 or worse. 7-5 against the AFC is attainable but it is more likely Baltimore loses to a division rival as opposed to one of the two teams in the NFC East — the division with the worst overall record in football. Winning out is the only way to avoid relying on tiebreakers.
Ravens Roster is Too Talented To Miss
If you were to address the pundits’ predictions at the beginning of the 2020 season, most of them had Baltimore winning the AFC North by a wide margin and at worst, a highly-seeded wild-card team. Very few had them as a team that would be fighting for their playoff lives through Week 17. They currently stand at 6-5 but feel like a team that has supremely underachieved.
The Ravens currently own the league’s third-ranked scoring defense, eighth-best total defense, third-best rushing defense, and fifth-best point differential. Those typically aren’t stats associated with the ninth-place team in the AFC. Four of Baltimore’s five losses have come against the three top-seeds in the AFC but that doesn’t excuse lackluster efforts at crucial interventions in-game.
Last year, the Ravens sent an NFL record 12 players to the Pro Bowl and only lost one, Marshal Yanda, over the off-season. They also added former Pro-Bowlers Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and by definition, Dez Bryant. When combining the Ravens projected starters for the remainder of the year, when healthy, Baltimore has 11 starters that have been named to a Pro Bowl — discluding special teams, backups like Mark Ingram, and players on the season-ending injured reserve like Ronnie Stanley. Eight of those 11 made the Pro Bowl last season and three were named 2019 All-Pros.
Most teams would kill to have the talent that the Ravens possess. They have elite players at every position group and are headed by the 2019 Coach of the Year in John Harbaugh. 2020 has just been a whirlwind for Baltimore and they still haven’t found a way to string it together on a consistent basis. If the Ravens can find that mesh point between talent and results, they can find a way to win out and/or make the playoffs.