Ravens' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 18

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2022

Ravens' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 18

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    Heading into the final week of the season the Baltimore Ravens' playoff hopes rely on a very specific path.

    A once-promising season is on the ropes. An ankle injury to Lamar Jackson has the team taking a five-game losing streak into the final week of the season. There's still hope, though. The Ravens need a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers and a lot of help elsewhere, but there's a reason to believe.

    It doesn't look like Jackson will be playing. The quarterback has not participated in practice to this point.

    Tyler Huntley has been a full participant, though. With the Steelers coming off an emotional win over the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football, there's a chance they come into this one a little burned out after a short week.

    If the Ravens secure a victory over the Steelers, here's what else they need to have happen in order to make the postseason.

Jaguars over Colts

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    Let's get the most unlikely hurdle out of the way first. The Ravens are going to be in the unenviable position of rooting for the Jacksonville Jaguars to pull off an upset of the Indianapolis Colts. Jaguars fans aren't even rooting for this result.

    A Jaguars win would open the door for the franchise to lose the No. 1 pick, as they are just a half-game worse than the Detroit Lions. The Colts, meanwhile, are fighting for their playoff lives.

    It was a close contest the first time these AFC South foes played this year. The Colts jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Jags made it 20-17 at one point in the fourth quarter. The Colts then regained the lead to win 23-17.

    That's the game the optimists will look at. The pessimists (or realists depending on your viewpoint) will likely note that meeting kicked off the Jaguars' current eight-game losing streak.

    After losing 50-10 to a New England Patriots team that was also fighting for a playoff berth last time out, there isn't a lot of hope in this game.

Patriots over Dolphins (Or a Tie)

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    Of all the results the Ravens need, this one is probably the most attainable.

    The Patriots still have an outside shot of winning the AFC East. They need to beat the Miami Dolphins and a Buffalo Bills loss to the New York Jets to secure the division and a home playoff game.

    Obviously, there's only a small chance the Jets beat the Bills, but both games kick off at the same time, so the Pats will be fully focused on their own contest.

    The Dolphins lost out on their opportunity to make the postseason with Week 17's 34-3 loss to Tennessee. That's a devastating development for a team that had won seven straight going in to put itself on the doorstep of the playoffs.

    Whether Miami can bounce back against a good Patriots team that has something to play for is doubtful.

    The Pats struggled in losses to the Colts and Bills but exorcised some demons with their 50-10 win over the Jags last time out. They should be counted on to show up and take care of business to close out their regular season.

Raiders over Chargers

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    Should the Ravens beat the Steelers and then get wins from the Jaguars and Patriots, it will all come down to Sunday night, when the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers meet in an AFC West battle.

    The regular-season finale might have the biggest playoff implications of all the games on the Week 18 slate. It's a win-and-in game for both teams, who are both coming off big victories that kept them in the race.

    ESPN's Football Power Index gives the Chargers a nearly 60 percent chance to win the game. But the Raiders are starting to make a habit of beating the odds. They were not favored against the streaking Indianapolis Colts in Week 17, but they handed them their first loss in four weeks.

    The Chargers won October's meeting between the two 28-14, but a lot has changed for the Raiders, who have found a way to win three in a row going into Sunday,

    The Ravens will have to hope that momentum carries Las Vegas to another win to give Lamar Jackson another week to try to get back in the lineup.


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