Only One Playoff Scenario Left For Ravens
Thanks for nothing, Peyton Manning.
Or should I say Eli Manning, given the older brother's four-interception performance against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football?
It was this gift-wrapped pick-6 that sealed the Bengals' victory, their spot in the playoffs, and officially cut the Ravens' number of roads to the postseason in half.
The Ravens are down to just one clear scenario now: a win over Cleveland PLUS a Chargers loss to the Chiefs Sunday.
Five AFC teams have punched a ticket to the postseason dance (Patriots, Broncos, Colts, Steelers and Bengals). That leaves the Ravens, along with three other teams, to play for one wild-card spot in Week 17.
If the season ended today, below are the Nos. 6-9 seedings, with the Chargers getting the last playoff spot because of a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Ravens.
- San Diego Chargers (9-6, .600)
- Baltimore Ravens (9-6, .600)
- Houston Texans (8-7, .533)
- Kansas City Chiefs (8-7, .533)
If the Ravens do advance, they would play at the AFC North champion's stadium in the first round. The Bengals play at the Steelers for that division title Sunday night.
Can We Rely On Chiefs To Beat Chargers?
That pesky Philip Rivers is a major thorn in the Ravens' side.
First, the Chargers quarterback engineered a fourth-quarter comeback against the Ravens on Nov. 30 on the way to a 34-33 victory.
Then* *John Harbaugh's brother, Jim, and the 49ers nearly knocked the Chargers down on Saturday. But once again, Rivers rallied with 17 fourth-quarter and overtime points to pick up a win.
With Jim and John unable to deliver defeats, John will now look to his former boss, Andy Reid, for help. But can we rely on Kansas City to put a nail in San Diego's proverbial coffin?
Well, the Chiefs are currently 3.5-point favorites, which is the point spread usually given to home teams against an evenly matched opponent. I'll have a full slate of analyst picks on Friday, but at least one expert has already turned in his prediction and he sees a belated Christmas present from Reid to his former pupil.
"If Philip Rivers wasn't basically duct taped together at this point, I'd feel comfortable picking San Diego in this game," wrote CBSSports.com's John Breech. "The Chargers quarterback has a bulging disk in his back, which is one place you definitely don't want to have a bulging disk.
"A healthy Rivers couldn't beat the Chiefs in San Diego (on Oct. 19) and I don't see a banged up Rivers beating the Chiefs at Arrowhead, which is too bad because a win over Kansas City would put San Diego in the playoffs. Chiefs 23-20 over Chargers."
Mr. Breech, Ravens fans hope you are as good at predictions as one Mr. Ray Lewis …
Steve Young Fails Ray Lewis Dance
I was hoping he was wrong when I listened to his bold prediction on ESPN prior to the Bengals-Broncos showdown, but Ray Lewis' crystal ball was sadly correct.
So as a result, fellow analyst Steve Young attempted to do Lewis' squirrel dance. Now, Young is my boy seeing as he is a fellow BYU alum, but this was terrible. Just terrible (Charles Barkley voice).
Young said the dance was "in honor" of Lewis' correct pick, but I don't see how this attempt at something that resembles dancing is honoring him.
Hensley: Harbaugh Must Play Psychologist This Week
While the Ravens need Kansas City to win as much as they need to win themselves, there's only one outcome they can control. So they have to stay focused.
Baltimore can't dwell on the horrid outing in Houston, and they can't dwell on the Chiefs. That's why Harbaugh has to do more than coach X's and O's this week.
"If the Baltimore Ravens are going to make the playoffs this year, John Harbaugh has to play psychologist as much as coach this week," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "Their focus has to be on what they can do this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and how they can reclaim one of the final two wild-card berths. And, if you don't think the Ravens can do this, Harbaugh believes that should motivate his players even more."
Harbaugh can use the critics and doubters as motivation to his players. He told his players that they have the chance to surprise all the haters.
"It gives us an opportunity to do something even greater. Surprise everybody even more," Harbaugh said Monday. "That's what we plan on doing, that's what we're going to try to do."
Harbaugh Offers Words Of Support To Brother Jim
Headlines continue to sweep the nation with rumors of Jim Harbaugh's job security as the head coach of the 49ers.
Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported that his status will be determined within 24-48 hours of the season ending. Per the report, it appears that Jim will no longer be in San Francisco.
One can only imagine that watching his younger brother in such a difficult situation is hard for John. The Ravens head coach was asked Monday about Jim's status with the 49ers in an interview with CSNBaltimore.com.
"I've always said, the goal is not to keep the job. The goal is to do the job. Do the job to the best of your ability and when that time is over, then you move on to the next opportunity," John said. "Owners and front offices, they get a chance to decide what is best for their organization going forward, and that's the way it should be.
"I know from Jim's standpoint, he's done something there that is absolutely historic and amazing. It's never really been done in the history of football before in terms of what he's done for the fans there, the city, the players, and I'm proud as heck of him. Whatever is next for him, he'll do a great job. Whatever it is, he'll be fired up and excited to do it. I'm proud of him no matter what happens. I think they had a great coach there the last four years, and they were blessed and fortunate to have him. I know the fans know that, and the players know that, and that's what really counts."
- Prayers up to former Ravens linebacker Rolando McClain after seeing this horrible image of his Alabama home burn to the ground. I recently experienced a fire (to my car) and there is little that is more terrifying than seeing a fire consume your property, and there is nothing you can do.
- @torreysmithwr: Hospital visit made the morning a little better@brandonw66 @jtuck9 @ogdaniels81 @trulybean@kbell121 @jpappps [Instagram]