John Harbaugh Has Achieved a 'Staggering Feat'
When a head coach has sustained success, great expectations come with the territory. When a head coach falls short of those great expectations, criticism also comes with the territory.
Two prime examples of head coaches who have become victims of their own success will meet this Sunday night when John Harbaugh's Ravens host Mike Tomlin's Steelers.
Press Box’s Glenn Clark noted that both Harbaugh and Tomlin are members of an exclusive club of 19 head coaches who have led teams to the playoffs at least 10 times. Names on that list include Bill Belichick, Don Shula, Tom Landry, Chuck Knoll, Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, and Bill Cowher.
That's pretty good company to say the least. Writing specifically about Harbaugh, who has taken the Ravens to the playoffs 10 times in 15 seasons, Clark said his success is indisputable.
"One of my least favorite 'takes' Ravens fans have turned to in the past year is the 'John Harbaugh has one playoff win since 2015' take. It's brainless," Clark wrote. " … It provides no context whatsoever. It is of course true, but the parameters are timed conveniently to present the most damning picture of futility while totally dismissing Harbaugh's prior playoff success. It is the football version of selective outrage."
Clark pointed out that Harbaugh — whose two losing seasons (2015, 2021) can be largely attributed to an inordinate amount of injuries — has been a constant in the organization's success since he took over as head coach in 2008.
"Harbaugh's success has transcended all players. With Sam Koch's retirement after last season, no single player has been there for all of Harbaugh's playoff appearances," Clark wrote. "The standard has also transcended coordinators in all three phases of the game and even general managers. (Which also, of course, does not mean that those folks haven't all played integral roles in creating the standard.) Whether you want to toast him from the end of the bar or not, John Harbaugh has been the standard.
"Whatever your opinion of John Harbaugh might be, you can't dismiss the rarified air he's now reached. Ten playoff trips in 15 seasons is a staggering feat. The accomplishment deserves appreciation and respect."
The Difference Between Being AFC's Fifth Seed and Sixth Seed Is Significant
With a playoff berth clinched, the next goal for the Ravens (10-5) is to overtake the Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) to win the AFC North title. There's a realistic chance the division will be determined by the winner of the regular-season finale between the two teams in Cincinnati on Jan. 8.
If the Ravens win the division, they'll most likely be the third seed and host a playoff game. If they enter the playoffs as a wild card, they'll likely be either the fifth or sixth seed — and the difference is significant.
As the fifth seed, the Ravens would face the AFC South winner (either the Jacksonville Jaguars or Tennessee Titans). As the sixth seed, the Ravens would face either the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, or Bengals.
That's taking nothing away from the Jaguars (7-8) — who have won four of their past five, including a 28-27 victory over the Ravens a month ago — but the Bills (12-3), Chiefs (12-3) and Bengals are regarded as three of the elite teams in the AFC.
The Los Angeles Chargers' 20-3 win over the Indianapolis Colts could impact the Ravens' seeding. If the Ravens and Chargers (9-6) are competing for the fifth seed, the Chargers would win the tiebreaker by virtue of a better conference record. The Chargers host the Los Angeles Rams (5-10) this Sunday and play at the Denver Broncos (4-11) in the regular-season finale.
Ravens Defense Has Been Dominant in Red Zone
Much has been made about the Ravens offense's struggles in the red zone. Not enough has been made about the Ravens defense's dominance in the red zone.
"After ranking 26th in red-zone defense through Week 7, the Ravens have allowed a touchdown on just seven of their opponents' last 24 trips inside the 20," Baltimore Positive’s Luke Jones wrote. "Regardless of the competition, that's impressive."