If reaching the playoffs means rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens are willing to make that sacrifice.
The Ravens need help to make the playoffs even if they win their next two games. Baltimore needs either the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, or Miami Dolphins to lose at least once more.
That's where the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers can do the Ravens a favor. The Steelers host the Colts in Week 16 and visit Cleveland in Week 17. Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked if circumstances would force the Ravens to become Steelers fans, at least temporarily.
"Of course," Harbaugh said. "We want to get in the playoffs. We know that we need some help."
However, Harbaugh emphasized that the Ravens (9-5) would not let their concentration stray from winning their final two games, starting with Sunday's home game against the New York Giants. Baltimore is riding a three-game winning streak and could be peaking at an opportune time.
"The focus really for us is going to be on taking care of our business," Harbaugh said. "It doesn't matter what anybody else does if we don't take care of our job. Our job is to win. We've got to find a way to win this week. We can control how we play."
Mark Ingram Staying Positive, Staying Ready
Mark Ingram II was a healthy scratch Sunday, as J.K. Dobbins (14 carries, 64 yards, one touchdown) and Gus Edwards (nine carries, 42 yards) continued to be the primary backs. It's not a role that the three-time Pro Bowler is used to, but Ingram continues to draw praise for always putting the team first.
"Mark's a consummate professional," Harbaugh said. "Like anybody else, he wants to play, wants to be out there. He worked really hard to get his ankle right and to come back from the COVID-19 deal. He looks strong in practice. He's healthy enough to play no doubt about it. I'd say just a series of circumstances have kind of led us to this place where the guys who are running the ball have really had a lot of success."
When Ingram played just one snap Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens only dressed four cornerbacks and were thin at that position late in the game after Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters were injured. On Sunday, the Ravens dressed five cornerbacks and Ingram had the day off. However, Harbaugh made it clear that Ingram will stay ready to roll.
"We've had to try and get some other positions active," Harbaugh said. "That's kind of the way it fell.
"For the team, it's a good situation. We have a chance to keep getting Mark healthier and stronger. We've got a lot of good backs that can contribute. His time is coming, there's no doubt about that.
Anthony Averett Handles Starting Role Superbly
With Peters and Smith out of the lineup, cornerback Anthony Averett played every snap in his first game since returning from injured reserve (shoulder). Averett appeared to be in excellent condition and played as if he had never been away with three tackles on one pass breakup.
The Ravens have always believed in Averett's talent, but it has been difficult for the 2018 fourth-round pick to find playing time on a team with so many excellent corners. On Sunday, Averett seized the moment and Harbaugh was not surprised.
"I consider him a starter quality corner, for sure," Harbaugh said. "He gets better all the time. I think it's really important to him to prove himself this year. He wants to make a name for himself to prove that he's one of those kind of guys. He's had some setbacks with injury situations but for him to come back out there and play the way he did was a big boost for us. We needed it. We were thin back there. I thought he played very well."
Pass Interference Calls Picking Up in Ravens' Favor
For the third straight game, the Ravens drew a defensive pass interference call Sunday when tight end Mark Andrews was impeded as he tried to catch a pass thrown by Lamar Jackson.
Getting that call was a welcome sight for the Ravens, who went the first 11 games this season without drawing a pass interference penalty. But as the Ravens’ offense has clicked over the last three games, it's putting more pressure on opposing defenses.
"What we teach our guys to do is try to make a play on the ball," Harbaugh said. "That's really on both sides. We teach our defensive players the same thing. We're not trying to act. I know there are teams that teach that. They teach body language. They teach acting, flopping, whatever you want to call it. We don't teach that. We just teach playing football. If the officials are looking for an acting job, we're not going to get those calls. We just try to play game."