The Baltimore Ravens never make it easy on themselves. After an atrocious Week 16 performance, the Ravens no longer control their own destiny heading into the last week of the regular season. With so many different scenarios coming into play, here is the most important information you need to know heading into what could be Baltimore's last game of the year.
|AFC Playoff Standings|
|2||New England Patriots||11-4|
|5||Kansas City Chiefs||11-4|
|8||San Diego Chargers||8-7|
Baltimore's embarrassing loss to the New England Patriots took the Ravens out of contention to win the AFC North. As a result, the only way into the postseason for Baltimore is to finish as the second wild-card team, but even that is out of the Ravens' control.
Baltimore could beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 but still miss out on the playoffs. There are four teams still in the hunt: the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers.
It's a unique situation where none of those teams control their own destiny, and it should make Week 17 highly entertaining.
Here is each team's opponent in Week 17:
|Week 17 Schedule|
|Miami Dolphins||vs. New York Jets|
|Baltimore Ravens||at Cincinnati Bengals|
|San Diego Chargers||vs. Kansas City Chiefs|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||vs. Cleveland Browns|
To help you keep track of it all, here are the possible scenarios that would result in Baltimore earning that second wild-card spot:
- BAL win plus SD loss or tie (BAL holds head-to-head tiebreaker over MIA)
- BAL win plus MIA loss or tie (BAL holds conference-record tiebreaker over SD)
- BAL tie plus MIA loss plus SD loss or tie (BAL holds conference-record tiebreaker over SD)
- BAL tie plus MIA tie plus SD loss (BAL holds head-to-head tiebreaker over SD)
- BAL loss plus MIA loss plus SD loss plus Pittsburgh loss or tie (NYJ eliminates MIA from four-way tie, and BAL holds better conference record than NYJ or SD)
There wasn't any big injury news to take from Week 16, other than the status of quarterback Joe Flacco. Dallas Clark, Asa Jackson and Albert McClellan were all inactive last week, so their status for the season finale is up in the air.
What Must Improve
After Week 16's pathetic performance, it's safe to say that everything needs to improve against the Bengals. From the very beginning against New England, it was clear that Baltimore didn't come ready to play.
Penalties were a problem and the decision making was questionable. Everything needs to improve on the field, and it starts with making sure that every Raven is mentally focused on the task at hand.
This is an area where the Ravens have struggled all season—they can't convert in 3rd-and-short situations. That shortcoming cost them the chance to get back in the game against New England, and it's cost them points all season long.
Cincinnati will still be playing for the chance to become the AFC's No. 2 seed and get a first-round bye, so nothing will be easy in Week 17. Baltimore needs to make the most of any chances it gets, and that means converting short-yardage situations when they get the opportunity.
Joe Flacco's Mobility
This is a minor detail, but Joe Flacco looked much more dangerous when he was able to move around the pocket and make plays with his legs. That wasn't possible with his sprained MCL, but he looked much better in the second half.
If Flacco is more mobile in Week 17, it'll be a nice boost for the offense—especially considering the fact that the offensive line is prone to lapses in pass protection on third down.