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Eisenberg: A 77 Percent Chance of Making the Playoffs Is Just an Opportunity

HC John Harbaugh
HC John Harbaugh

The Ravens have certainly experienced their version of a rough time at sea – a few weeks of it, in fact.

Key injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak decimated the roster and helped produce a three-game losing streak. As of now, a Baltimore team once seen as a serious Super Bowl contender wouldn't even qualify for the playoffs.

But like the sight of a lighthouse in the distance, a reassuring statistic is offering hope to that team enduring rough seas. The Ravens still have a 77 percent chance of making the AFC playoffs, according to ESPN.

Seriously. A better than three in four chance. Despite all that's gone on.

It's just a guesstimate, of course, the product of the same math that gave the Ravens a 99 percent chance not so long ago. So make of it what you want.

But it does suggest all is not lost, which is certainly true.

That's a testament to several factors. The Ravens gave themselves a nice margin for error by winning six of their first eight games. Their remaining schedule is the NFL's easiest. The playoff field has expanded, adding a third wild-card qualifier. And in normal circumstances, the Ravens stand out among the wild-card contenders. They solidly whipped the Indianapolis Colts, who currently hold one of the three spots.

In the wake of their inspired performance in Pittsburgh Wednesday, and with their COVID-19 outbreak seemingly ebbing, the Ravens (and their fans) have every right to be optimistic about what could lie ahead. Hey, 77 percent.

But Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh isn't engaging in such happy chatter.

"It remains to be seen whether we get the job done or not," he said Thursday.

Although he also praised his team for being "very resilient, very persistent and mentally tough," Harbaugh recognizes that a sizable challenge lies ahead, despite those reasons for optimism.

For starters, the Ravens have barely practiced lately due to their COVID-19 outbreak. Although that's changing, they've experienced a calamitous disruption to their routine.

If you think it's easy to deal with that and then just snap your fingers and start bringing your "A" game, think again.

And while it's surely promising to see so many players returning from injuries and the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the effects of the outbreak are far from over. Many key players are still on the list, including quarterback Lamar Jackson.

And remember, some of those returning actually had the virus. Maybe they'll pick right back up, but who knows? Although J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram II were eligible to play in Pittsburgh, they didn't due to what Harbaugh termed "a medical decision."

As for Jackson, the only insight into his condition is teammate Orlando Brown Jr. saying he's "feeling well" and Hollywood Brown's assertion that he is "in good spirits." If he sits out Tuesday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys, third-stringer Trace McSorley would replace him. Robert Griffin is on injured reserve after suffering a pulled hamstring against Pittsburgh.

The prospect of a young quarterback who has attempted six NFL passes facing the Cowboys in a must-win contest is all you need to know about the challenge facing the Ravens.

No doubt, their schedule gives them a chance to start stacking wins and rebuilding their confidence. Other than taking on the 8-3 Browns in Cleveland, the Ravens will face four opponents with a combined 10-33-1 record. The 3-8 Cowboys' last game was a 25-point home loss to the Washington Football Team.

But strange things happen in the NFL; in October, remember, the Ravens needed a late stop to avoid going into overtime against the Philadelphia Eagles, who are now 3-7-1.

Meanwhile, their margin for error has mostly evaporated. The Ravens might need to go 5-0, certainly no worse than 4-1, to make the playoffs. And really, after losing three straight games and four of their last five, they just need to win a game, period, before anyone starts thinking about what they could accomplish.

Bottom line, nothing is assured. That 77 percent statistic is indicative of a great opportunity, but having that opportunity is one thing and taking advantage of it is another.

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