Actually, Ravens DON'T Have Wild-Card Spot, But Still Control Their Destiny
There's a whole lot of confusion about whether the Ravens still own the sixth AFC playoff seed.
They don't, but oddly enough, their trajectory at getting it back hasn't changed one bit.
Let's clear up the confusion:
NFL.com's official playoff picture page clearly showed the Ravens with the final wild-card spot at the end of yesterday's action. This was after all three teams with a 7-6 record – Baltimore, Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers – had already finished their games.
That is incorrect pic.twitter.com/DrMOrHNpfN — Seth Guttman (@Seth_Guttman) December 11, 2017
The explanation was that the Ravens own the tiebreaker over Buffalo based on the win percentage of common opponents. What was not taken into account, however, was that the tiebreaker rule requires a minimum of four common opponents. As of right now, they don't meet the requirement.
Self-proclaimed "tiebreaker guru" Joe Ferreira, who says he's worked on tiebreakers with the NFL for 26 years, tweeted last night that the NFL.com playoff page was wrong, and would hopefully be corrected. It has been. The page now has Buffalo in the final AFC playoff seed, and Baltimore "in the hunt."
So, if the season ended today, the Ravens would not go to the playoffs.
But here's the thing: none of this changes Baltimore's road to the postseason. It was written yesterday that if the Bills, Chargers/Chiefs (they play each other this week) and Ravens all win out and finish with identical records, Baltimore will advance because of tiebreakers.
That's still true. By then, the Ravens and Bills WILL have four common opponents. Both have already played the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders, and they both will have played the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts by the conclusion of Week 17.
"If the Ravens win out, beating the Browns on Sunday and then closing out their home schedule with victories against the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals, they are guaranteed a wild-card spot," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "That's because if the Chargers, Bills and Ravens all win out, the Chargers would take the AFC West and the Ravens would win the common opponent tiebreaker over the Bills. The common opponent tiebreaker doesn't kick in until teams have at least four common opponents, which the Ravens and Bills will by season's end."
If the Chiefs win out, they will take the AFC West and the Ravens would win the tiebreaker over the Bills.
According to ESPN Analytics, Baltimore still has an 82.8 percent chance of advancing to the playoffs. That's only a 6.5 percent decrease after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Their odds still remain so high because the Ravens' final three opponents have a combined 8-31 (.205) record. The Bills' remaining opponents are 20-16 (.555) and the Chargers' are 18-21 (.461).
"It was only three years ago that the Ravens were blown out by the Steelers in their first full game without Smith and returned to Heinz Field two months later to win in the opening round of the playoffs," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "Regardless of how it ended Sunday night, a one-point road loss to an 11-2 team shouldn't prompt any fear if given the chance to roll the dice again, and there isn't much more you can ask for beyond that.
"But [the loss] didn't end their season this time around, and there was enough good to take away from the performance to ponder the possibilities of a third meeting sometime next month. That is, if the Ravens handle their business between now and then."
With the New England Patriots' Stunning Loss, Who Is the AFC's Best Team?
Everyone is vulnerable. Everyone.
That's what we learned in Week 14 of the NFL season.
After barley beating the Ravens, who had the 30th-ranked offense heading into the game, pundits were saying the Steelers were now susceptible on defense. No way Tom Brady would lose to the Steelers after they gave up 38 points to Baltimore, right?
But then the New England Patriots shocked everyone on Monday Night Football by losing to the Miami Dolphins, the same team the Ravens pummeled, 40-0.
It leaves the door open for a debate about who the best team is in the AFC, and a potentially wild ride in the playoffs.
"If [the Patriots] lose to the Steelers ... goodness," wrote CBSSports.com's Will Brinson. "Not only would Pittsburgh then be a shoe-in for the top seed, but the Patriots would then be behind the 8-ball for even the No. 2 seed. That's because if the Jaguars take care of business next week against the Texans, they'd then be tied with New England at 10-4 and hold the conference-record tiebreaker over the Pats.
"Basically, the Patriots' loss to the Dolphins could mean absolutely nothing (if they beat Pittsburgh) or virtually everything (if they lose to the Steelers). The pressure is certainly on now."
Injuries Taking a Toll on C.J. Mosley
In addition to All-World wide receiver Antonio Brown wreaking havoc on the Ravens secondary Sunday with more than 200 yards, there were issues in the middle of the field too.
"This tough loss exposed the Ravens lack of speed on defense," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Vasilis Lericos. "Pittsburgh tight ends Jesse James, Vance McDonald and running back Le'Veon Bell dominated the middle of the field, combining to post 23 receptions for 227 yards. No matter the play-call, linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Tony Jefferson were unable to maintain adequate coverage."
Mosley is without question a Pro Bowl linebacker, making many wonder why he has struggled in coverage. He also had trouble against the Jacksonville Jaguars tight ends in Week 3, but there appears to be something more going on affecting his play recently.
If They Want, Ravens Essentially Have Alex Collins 'Under Contract' Through 2019
There's no debate over who the Ravens' best offensive playmaker is this season. It's no question running back Alex Collins, who proved the point again Sunday night with 120 rushing yards and his fifth touchdown in four games.
There has been debate, however, over whether the Ravens should commit to Collins as their long-term solution. The argument is that he may be playing well now, but could be a one-year wonder like Justin Forsett was in 2014 when he made the Pro Bowl in Gary Kubiak's system.
But here's the thing, the Ravens don't need to commit a big contract to keep Collins in Baltimore for the next two years, which affords them time to discover whether he's more than just a flash in the pan.
For the record, I don't think he is, and Baltimore could have a top-10 NFL running back for a bargain price for two more years.
Chris Moore Has Supplanted Breshad Perriman, and Is Outperforming Jeremy Maclin
At his weekly Monday media presser, Head Coach John Harbaugh seemed genuinely impressed with second-year receiver Chris Moore.
Moore has played well on special teams, and Sunday night he had a 30-yard touchdown and an impressive diving sideline catch.
"He's coming on," Harbaugh said with a smile.
Moore has been the beneficiary of a few more targets in games while 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman has been a healthy scratch. He's even outperformed No. 2 receiver Jeremy Maclin in recent weeks.
Moore didn't finish Sunday's game because of a hip injury, but Harbaugh said Moore is optimistic he could play as early as this week.