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Ravens React to Gaining Control Of Their Playoff Fate

The NFL Wildcard logo is shown painted on the field (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
The NFL Wildcard logo is shown painted on the field (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

The Ravens now, finally, control their playoff destiny. Following weeks of waiting for help from other teams, it's become simple.

After beating the Giants and getting some help from the rival Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets, the Ravens will get into the postseason if they beat the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17.

The Ravens (10-5) are now tied with the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts in the standings, but Baltimore has a head-to-head advantage over both. The Dolphins are also 10-5 and currently the fifth seed.

The Ravens currently sit in the sixth playoff spot. The Browns are in the seventh spot and the Colts are on the outside looking in at No. 8.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens didn't watch the ending of the Steelers' or Jets' wins in the postgame locker room. Baltimore did its usual routine with a team prayer, Harbaugh speaking to the team and handing out game balls. Coaches and players checked out the scores or watched the endings on their phones afterwards.

"We really haven't been focused on that at all. We figured that takes care of itself and we need to take of us – and we still need to do that," Harbaugh said.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson, fresh off another strong outing with 263 total yards and two touchdowns, took a similar outlook.

"My reaction was, 'We just have to keep winning,'" Jackson said. "We still have to win no matter what, and that's what I'm focused on. I'm just happy they lost.

"It feels great, but we still have Cincinnati in our way. We have to get ready for them, because those guys are going to come to play. We're going to Cincinnati, so we just have to be ready and focus on those guys."

According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the Ravens now have a 92 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. If they beat the Bengals, they'll enter as one of the NFL's hottest teams – riding a five-game winning streak.

With the Ravens controlling their game against the Giants from the start, the real drama Sunday was watching the Steelers-Colts and Jets-Browns.

"I was watching the scoreboard probably the whole game, just checking on it," tight end Mark Andrews admitted.

Riding a three-game losing streak, the Steelers trailed the Colts, 24-7, in the third quarter with an offense that was struggling again. However, they rattled off 21 unanswered points to lock up the AFC North title.

Minutes later, the New York Jets held on to beat the Browns, 23-16, after Baker Mayfield fumbled on back-to-back drives to end the game. The Browns were operating without their four top wide receivers after they were identified as COVID-19 high-risk close contacts.

It came as a relief because it seemed the Ravens might not get the help they needed, especially after Saturday night's unbelievable ending with the Las Vegas Raiders blowing a lead with 6 seconds left against the Miami Dolphins.

Andrews said some of his Ravens teammates were watching the Saturday night game, but he wasn't. On Sunday, however, Andrews couldn't help himself.

"You try not to look too far elsewhere, but we control our own fate, and that's a great feeling," Andrews said. "We've got to go play a really, really good Bengals team this next week and try to get better and reach the playoffs. And that's all we can focus on – is the next game – not focus on the playoffs. We're just trying to get better and win this game, and the cards will fall how they fall."

The Ravens have been down this road before with the Bengals. In 2017, Baltimore only needed to beat the sub-.500 Bengals to get into the playoffs, but Cincinnati pulled off a shocker in the final minute to send Baltimore home.

Baltimore could lose to the Bengals and still get into the playoffs if the Browns were to lose to the Steelers next week, but the Ravens don't want to leave anything in anyone else's hands. They already had to sweat out that scenario the past couple weeks.

The Ravens are red-hot and looking like a team nobody will want to face in the wild-card round, but they're not there yet.

"To be honest, I don't want to start overthinking," Jackson said. "I just want to keep the laser sharp focus we have going right now and just focus on the task at hand, like I said before. We don't want to [say,] 'Oh yes, we're doing this right. We're doing this wrong.' Just keep building [and] just keep stacking wins, because that's what's important for us right now – winning. So, that's all we have to keep doing."

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