It may sound weird but I’m not so sure that the Indianapolis win over Pittsburgh Sunday was the best thing in the world for the Ravens’ playoff chances.
Before you outfit me for a straight jacket, let’s examine this thing.
OK, granted that in the race for the AFC North championship, the Steelers’ loss is a good thing but the outcome of that Indy-Pittsburgh game makes it a whole lot tougher on the Ravens for a wildcard spot.
Here’s where the Colts stand now. They are 5-4 with one-foot putts left against Houston, Cincinnati and Detroit. Their game in Cleveland is a little tougher (the Brady Quinn factor is still unknown right now) but it’s another likely win. Even if Indianapolis loses testers to underachieving San Diego and Jacksonville, the Colts likely go into Game 16 with nine wins. And who do they draw on the last day? AFC South rival Tennessee. Well, what do you think the chances are that the Titans have playoff home field locked up by then? Pretty good, right? And unless Tennessee is going for 16-0, they will have the second-string out there while the Colts will be fighting for their lives.
So this is beginning to look like an easy 10-6 for the Colts and they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Ravens. In that scenario, Ravens fans have to hope to beat out competition from the AFC East for the second wildcard.
Of course, there’s the distinct possibility of winning the AFC North outright with the Ravens and Steelers tied at 6-3 and the Dec. 14 rematch at M&T Bank Stadium looming huge. If the two teams keep pace and the Ravens win that crucial game, then the Colts’ win over the Steelers was certainly a good thing for Baltimore.
But hypothetically turning the results around from the Indianapolis-Pittsburgh game yesterday, the Ravens would be in much better shape relative to the Colts for a wildcard and even though they might trail the Steelers by a game going into Dec. 14, they could have drawn even with a victory and still have a shot at the division title. I know … it’s enough to make your head hurt.
While we’re at it, here’s another interesting turn in the schedule. Guess who the Steelers play in Game 15? The Titans. Now, it’s not as probable that the Titans could have the playoff home field locked up and still not be perfect going into that game but it is possible. And if that happens, the Steelers might also be looking at an easier game than under normal circumstances.
Actually, the answer is simple. If the Ravens keep winning, they make the playoffs.