Ravens-Chargers Has Big Playoff Implications


The Ravens want to win every game.

And they *really *want to win every game against AFC opponents in the hunt for a playoff spot.

That's what they have a chance to do on Sunday.

The Ravens (7-4) and Chargers (7-4) are both in the thick of the AFC playoff picture, and the winner of Sunday's matchup at M&T Bank Stadium could finish with a critical tiebreaker if the two teams end up competing for a wild-card spot.

"Every game right now is like a playoff game for us," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "We play a couple of teams that are all in the hunt.  So, it's really going to be about who wants it more.  We have to be at our best right now, and we understand that."

If the season ended today, the Chargers would be in the playoffs as a No. 6 seed and the Ravens would be on the outside looking in.

That can all change dramatically over the final five weeks of the regular season, and the Ravens recognize the implications of Sunday's game. 

"You have to win your next game on the schedule because we need to stack wins right now," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It doesn't hurt that if you win this game it knocks somebody else back."

The first goal for the Ravens every year is to win the AFC North, which is still realistic. The Ravens are second behind the Bengals (7-3-1), and then the Browns and Steelers also have 7-4 records. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati still have to play each other twice, which would knock at least one of them back in the race.

The Chargers are also in contention for the AFC West title behind the Denver Broncos (8-3).

But if neither team wins their division, then the wild-card ramifications for Sunday's came could be pivotal. The top tiebreaker to determine a wild-card spot is the head-to-head record.

"It's an offspring of winning the game," Harbaugh said. "It's definitely very helpful to beat an AFC team, if you can do it. Just like your division games are that much more important for those same reasons. But it doesn't change your motivation of what we have to get accomplished."

Figuring out all of the playoff scenarios with five weeks to play can be an endless pursuit, and quarterback Joe Flacco stressed that the Ravens need to simply focus taking care of their own business.

"There are times when you think about that stuff, but it's so tough and it's honestly so bad for the mind to think of what the possibilities are, and what the outcome is going to be," he said. "We just have to go play a football game. I think if we do that and concentrate on ourselves, good things are going to happen."

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