Mailbag: Can the Ravens Really Get the Playoff Help They Need?


Mink: The most unlikely part of the string of results the Ravens need to get into the playoffs is a Jaguars upset of the Colts. On the surface, it seems there's no way. Jacksonville is the worst team in the league with a 2-14 record and a minus-219-point differential that is way lower than the Lions' (minus-149). On the flip side, the Colts have won six of their past eight games, making them one of the league's hottest teams over the second half of the season.

However, the Jags kept it close in the teams' earlier meeting this year in Week 10. The Colts won, 23-17, but it was a three-point game with more than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Colts also had a blocked punt returned for a touchdown earlier in the game, so they got some fluky points.

Here's another wild stat that will get your hopes up. The Colts have not won a game in Jacksonville since 2014. Now, that literally has no bearing on this matchup, but it's not like the Jags have been good in years past, and they still found a way to defend their turf against a division rival. The Jags had one win last year, and it was against the Colts at home.

Do I expect the Jaguars to win? No. But stranger things have happened, especially these days when COVID-19 could impact who a team has on the field and change an outcome. I'll certainly have one eye on that game Sunday.

Mink: It is true that if the Jaguars do beat the Colts (in a 1 p.m. kickoff) that the Raiders are automatically in the playoffs, even if they lose to the Chargers on Sunday night. So, yes, they could opt to rest their starters for at least part of the game.

I doubt they would do so for a full game considering they've been preparing all week for what's expected to be a win-and-get-in playoff-like game. I just have a hard time seeing them flip a switch and shutting all that down. Teams often like to keep momentum going into the playoffs, and as winners of two straight big games, the Raiders are on a roll. But, yes, this game getting flexed to Sunday night could hurt Baltimore's chances if the Raiders rest their starters at any point.

Here's another weird fact about this weekend's playoff scenarios. If the Jags do beat the Colts, the Raiders and Chargers would both get into the playoffs if they tie. So both teams could literally just kneel the entire time and reach the postseason. Now that would make for an exciting "Sunday Night Football" game!

Downing: Tony Jefferson has made the most of his opportunity since returning to Baltimore. Injuries and COVID issues have thrust him into the lineup the last few weeks, and he's played well in a tough spot. It looked like his career might be over, but he's shown enough this year that I think he deserves a shot in a team's training camp next summer. That spot could be in Baltimore. DeShon Elliott is set to become an unrestricted free agent, so he could land elsewhere this offseason. Rookie Brandon Stephens has probably done enough to earn a starting safety job next season, but the Ravens could still consider retaining Jefferson for veteran depth.

Regardless of whether the Ravens bring back Jefferson, the safety deserves credit for returning to NFL action. The serious knee injury he suffered in 2019 cost him two years of football. Plenty of players would have called it a career at that point. But he continued working to get back on the field, and that effort was rewarded late this season. Jefferson is a highly respected player in the Ravens locker room, and it's been good to see him back in action.

Downing: It sure didn't seem to me like Antonio Brown was all that interested in playing football Sunday when he took off his jersey in the middle of the game, tossed his gloves in the stands and then jogged off the field while playing to the crowd. It's hard to see him getting a chance with another NFL team. Brown's talent is undeniable, and he showed how valuable he can be last year when he helped Tampa Bay win a Super Bowl. But he's now had unceremonious departures from four NFL teams. I can't see the Ravens bringing him to Baltimore. They had opportunities to sign him before he went to Tampa Bay – he even posted on social media at the time indicating a desire to come to Baltimore – but the Ravens ultimately passed on him. After the latest incident, I can't see that changing.

Plus, the Ravens have plenty of talent with their receiving corps. Marquise Brown is closing in on 1,000 yards. Rashod Bateman has been impressive in his rookie campaign. Devin Duvernay is a versatile player who made the Pro Bowl as a returner. James Proche and Tylan Wallace have both shown promise. Unlike past seasons when the Ravens had a big need at the receiver position, the young receiving corps is in a good spot heading into next year. Given the Ravens' talent at the position and Brown's latest issues, this doesn't seem like a probable union.

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