Ravens Have Wiggle Room

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The Ravens have said for the last few weeks that they must win their final slew of games I order to make the playoffs.

Heading into a matchup with their hated AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers with the possibility of knocking them out of postseason contention, of course that would be favorable.

But, it's also not a necessity.

The 8-6 Ravens could still make the playoffs at 9-7. A loss to the Steelers and a win over the Oakland Raiders, the Ravens would win a tiebreaker with Pittsburgh because of their division record, the Denver Broncos (head-to-head), the Tennessee Titans (conference record) and Houston Texans (conference record).

Baltimore would lose tiebreakers to the Jacksonville Jaguars because of their respective conference record, and the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets because of common opponents.

Confused yet?

What if the Ravens beat the Steelers and lose to the recently-spunky Raiders?

Baltimore would still win the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh because they beat them twice, the Broncos because of their Week 8 victory, the Dolphins and the Jets because of common games, and the Jaguars, Texans and Titans with their conference record.

The Ravens would prefer to simplify things.

The fact that so many clubs are in contention, however, speaks to the level of talent across the NFL.

Early in the season, the Ravens were among a select few teams that were clearly leading the pack.

But losing three straight games from Weeks 4-6, and then flip-flopping wins and losses until taking two consecutive victories over the past two Sundays, kept the Ravens in contention.

"We know what we have to do," said linebacker Terrell Suggs. "That just shows how you can't take any team lightly. Every week, anyone can win, and we're taking the season that way."

If the Ravens do defeat Pittsburgh, it would be a regular-season sweep for only the second time ever. The only other time that happened was in 2006, as the Ravens won 27-0 at home and 31-7 in Heinz Field.

And, it would go a long way towards erasing the bad taste of a devastating loss to the Steelers in last year's AFC Championship in Pittsburgh.

"I think a win removes a taste that we didn't go to the Super Bowl, bottom line," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "That's what a win does. Whether it's this week in Pittsburgh, or next week in Oakland, the bottom line is we've got to win to get in, to get a chance to do that. So, I don't think it's about them, per se. It's about the next team on our schedule. Just strap them up and here we go again."

Many Ravens have said that they don't get more amped up because they are facing the Steelers. The Ravens are taking Sunday's matchup like they would any other opponent.

After playing their way back into the playoff conversation, there is a lot riding on this Pittsburgh game.

But, the light still glimmers if Baltimore is on the wrong side of the outcome. The Ravens would just rather not have it come down to that.

"It means if we take care of business, we're in the playoffs," head coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a fight in this league. It's week to week. Very few teams just breeze through, and even the undefeated team, they've had a lot of ups and downs, too. They've been in a lot of battles – one being against us right here. So, that's just the great thing about this league. We're very proud to be in the position that we're in, and we're going to do our best to make the most of it on Sunday. And, that's really all we can do."

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