How Ravens Can Still Clinch Playoffs
The most lopsided loss in the John Harbaugh era cost the Ravens any chance of winning the AFC North, and now they need help to advance to the postseason as a wild-card seed.
The Bengals clinched the division Sunday, and all the remaining AFC sixth-seed hopefuls need help to win.
"It seems that no one wants to take control of the playoff picture with both Miami and Baltimore losing in Week 16," wrote CBSSports.com's Joe Ferreira.
1) BAL win SD loss or tie
2) BAL win MIA loss or tie
3) BAL tie MIA loss SD loss or tie
4) BAL tie MIA tie SD loss
5) MIA loss SD loss PIT loss or tie
There is a scenario in which the Ravens win their season finale in Cincinnati, but still fail to advance.
If both the Dolphins (vs. Jets) and Chargers (vs. Chiefs) are victorious along with the Ravens in Week 17, Miami will earn the final wild-card spot because of a conference three-way tiebreaker (all three would be 9-7). The Ravens' head-to-head tiebreaker with Miami would not count in a three-way tie.
Interestingly, the Ravens could lose to the Bengals and still advance.
They would need Miami, San Diego and Pittsburgh to also lose, putting the Dolphins and Chargers at 8-8, and Steelers at 7-9. The Jets would also then be 8-8. In this case, Baltimore advances because the league applies division tiebreakers first even in wild-card scenarios, explains SI.com's Chris Burke. An 8-8 Jets team would eliminate an 8-8 Dolphins team, and Miami's superior conference record would no longer count, propelling the Ravens forward.
Below are the current AFC playoff standings:
|AFC PLAYOFF STANDINGS|
|Broncos [clinched home field advantage]||12||3||4-1||8-3|
|Patriots [clinched division]||11||4||3-2||8-3|
|Bengals [clinched division]||10||5||2-3||7-4|
|Colts [clinched division]||10||5||5-0||8-3|
|Chiefs [clinched playoff berth]||11||4||2-3||7-4|
|In The Hunt||W||L||DIV||CONF|
Ravens Can't Win Without Healthy Flacco
Even though quarterback Joe Flacco insisted after the game that his injured knee and accompanying brace didn't affect his performance, few people are buying it. Our own John Eisenberg and ESPN's Jamison Hensley are among the doubters.
"It's commendable that Flacco doesn't want to make excuses, and maybe as an athlete you can't have the mindset that you're limited. But no one can believe him after watching his performance," Hensley wrote.
Flacco was off-target on several occasions, threw two interceptions and didn't have the same burst or mobility that we've become accustomed to this season. Most of all, he wasn't his normal clutch self with the game and division on the line.
Even though Flacco wasn't having a Pro Bowl season before his injury, if he's not healthy going forward, Hensley says the season is over for the Ravens.
"Barring a miraculous recovery by quarterback Joe Flacco, the season ended for the Ravens when the helmet of Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy hit the left knee of Flacco six days ago," the blogger wrote. "That's the painful reality for Flacco and the defending Super Bowl champions."
The Ravens haven't been perfect, but they were on a four-game winning streak heading into Week 16. They looked to be the biggest wild-card threat that no playoff team wanted to face. Then they took a 41-7 pounding.
The difference Sunday was the Ravens' "one-legged quarterback."
"This isn't a knock on Flacco's toughness," Hensley wrote. "It's just an assessment of his effectiveness. Baltimore needs Flacco to be at full strength when all of the other phases of the offense – a running game, pass protection and his wide receivers' hands – are so unreliable."
Harbs 'Correctly Scoffed' At Playing Tyrod Sooner
Why not put in a 100-percent healthy Tyrod Taylor over a gimpy Flacco?
When the game was far out of reach and Taylor was put in with two minutes left, the backup quarterback mishandled a snap, which was recovered for a Patriots touchdown, and he threw a 74-yard pick-six.
"For all those thinking Taylor should've played QB, you got your answer why he shouldn't in these final two minutes," tweeted Hensley.
When asked if he thought about putting in Taylor sooner, Harbaugh simply said there was no consideration of it.
That was a good call, says Hensley.
"It's not like the Ravens should've played backup Tyrod Taylor over the banged-up Flacco, not based on the way Taylor finished the game," Hensley wrote. "Harbaugh correctly scoffed at the question of whether he considered going to Taylor earlier in the game."
GIFs Of The Game
Tom Brady Awkwardly Left Hanging On High-Five
Let's start with one that could actually make Ravens fans smile after a game that gave them little to smile about.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady wanted to celebrate with his teammates after Tavon Wilson's fourth-quarter pick six. Except his teammates didn't want to celebrate with him.
The Patriots franchise quarterback was left awkwardly hanging as he searched for someone to give him a high-five in the SB Nation GIF below (mobile users tap "View in Browser").
Apparently, this has been a trend for Brady this season.
Flacco Slips … On Banana Peel?
This is the one play that Flacco admitted was affected by his bum knee.
Without anybody surrounding him and without any contact at all, Flacco suddenly fell to the ground.
The only explanation SB Nation's Seth Rosenthal can come up with: "Banana peel, probably."
Nah, that wasn't it. Flacco explained after the game his knee was bent from the tape and he just whiffed on the turf. "It was just really unathletic," he said.
Flacco was hard on himself on the slideline, trying to pull his hair out.
And then there was this one, blowing his lips. I'll just let it speak for itself.
LeGarrette Blount Mocks Ray Lewis Dance
First Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders did it.
And now LeGarrette Blount.
I guess it's the new cool thing to mock Ray Lewis' Squirrel Dance at M&T Bank Stadium now that he is retired.
"It's nice to see so many players getting their shots in at Ray now. It's something we never really saw while Lewis was playing," wrote SB Nation's James Dator.
"I wonder why."
But Blount tweeted after the game that he got permission from Lewis to perform his dance.
"I meant no disrespect to @raylewis at all for that 2nd TD dance! I've asked him before if I could do it and he said 'Yeah! Kill that thang,' Blount wrote.
Report: Ravens Hopeful Of Extending Monroe
After a short period of adjustment, left tackle Eugene Monroe has shown that he fits in on the Ravens offensive line.
The Ravens traded for him in early October and he will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but the team is “hopeful” it can sign him to a contract extension, according to CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora.
"The Ravens parted with a fourth and fifth round pick to land Monroe – a steep price for a 'rental' and especially steep for a team that prizes draft picks as the Ravens do – and with right tackle Michael Oher's future very much in doubt with the team, the team will attempt to secure Monroe long-term when then season ends, sources said," La Canfora wrote.
"Oher, a former first-round pick, has shown he cannot play left tackle and even as a right tackle, struggles in pass protection and commits a lot of penalties. Contract talks with Oher prior to the season yielded no real progress, sources said, and the team is unlikely to make Oher among the highest-paid right tackles in the league."
- Concussion feared for Jones … "Defensive end Arthur Jones left the game with concussion symptoms and didn't return," wrote Aaron Wilson. "Jones will go through the standard NFL concussion protocol." [The Baltimore Sun]
- A pretty accurate summary of the Ravens awful day … "As the Ravens remain alive in their pursuit of the sixth and final AFC playoff berth heading into the final week of the regular season, they just saw what a legitimate playoff team looks like," wrote Wilson. "The Patriots were much more disciplined and weren't sloppy, unlike the Ravens. The offensive line didn't protect well enough for a gimpy Joe Flacco, who was clearly limited by his sprained left knee as he was unable to step into his throws the way he normally does when healthy. The wide receivers didn't win enough one-on-one battles. The defense was a step behind Tom Brady all game, failing to pressure him often enough or react quickly to play-action fakes, and got trucked repeatedly by power back LeGarrette Blount. Even kicker Justin Tucker had an off-game, missing his first field goal since the second week of the season as his streak of 33 consecutive field goals ended." [The Baltimore Sun]
- @gdowning: It's been a joy watching Mishael Miller sing the National Anthem at M&T Bank Stadium every Sunday. Great talent. Wish him well! [Twitter]
- @BaltimoreLuke: The #Ravens introduce Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, and Morgan Cox prior to the starting offense today. Nice and well-deserved honor. [Twitter]
- @mattvensel: Todd Heap is in the press box, which is kind of disorienting. [Twitter]
- @PMGleason: Ray Rice has now posted 50 catches for a 5th-straight season, tying Todd Heap for 2nd most in #Ravens history (Derrick Mason had 6) [Twitter]
- It was raining yellow flags in Baltimore yesterday. The Ravens were penalized nine times for 83 yards, while the Patriots were flagged seven times for 58 yards. In the interview below, safety James Ihedigbo called the officiating "questionable" but didn't want to blame the game's outcome on the refs. [CSNBaltimore.com]