Upon further review: Ravens clearly in playoff hunt

Upon further review: Ravens clearly in playoff hunt
November 25, 2013, 9:15 am
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Ravens know it's must-win here on out


The AFC playoff picture remains crowded, but the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens (5-6) are still in it. Six teams in the conference are 5-6. But only one of those teams is likely to make the playoffs.

The Ravens, Steelers, Dolphins, Jets, Titans, and Chargers are all 5-6, vying for the No. 6 seed. All of them trail their division leader by at least two games. So the final wild card spot looks like the best ticket for the 5-6 teams, including the Ravens.

Here’s a closer look at the Ravens’ playoff prospects. 

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- Don’t believe the Ravens can’t win the AFC North. 

They trail the Bengals (7-4) by two games. But the Ravens have already beaten the Bengals once, and could win a tiebreaker by sweeping the season series. The Ravens don’t have an easy schedule remaining, but neither do the Bengals. The Ravens and Bengals face each other Week 17 in Cincinnati. If the Ravens can pull within one game by then, that regular-season finale could decide the division.

- Don’t believe the Steelers can’t win the AFC North.

The Steelers are the hottest team in the division, with three straight wins, and a 5-2 record since their bye. The Steelers only have one game left against a team that is currently above .500. From a 0-4 start to a division title would be a crazy feat, but the Steelers could pull that off 

- Thursday night’s Steelers-Ravens game is a must win for both teams.

[RELATED: Big plays power Ravens past Jets ]

Get ready for a classic, because these teams don’t like each other, and playmakers on both sides like Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Ben Roethlisberger, and Troy Polamalu all know what’s at stake.  If the Ravens win, they get back to .500, with 10 days off. But if the Steelers win, they sweep the season series, and the Ravens fall to 5-7, very unlikely to make the playoffs.

-The Ravens’ defense at home could be their ticket to the playoffs. 

Sunday’s 19-3 victory over the Jets was the third time this season that the Ravens did not surrender a touchdown at home. They also kept the Browns (14-6 win) and Texans (30-9 win) out of the end zone. At home, the Ravens are giving up 10.8 points per game. That’s playoff worthy defense.

- The Ravens’ poor play on the road could be their ticket out of the playoffs.

The Ravens are 1-5 on the road, and they still play at Detroit and Cincinnati. Even if the Ravens win their remaining home games, they finish no better than 8-8 unless they beat somebody on the road. The Ravens have lost three road games by a field goal, and another by six points. If they don’t make the playoffs, they’ll spend the offseason thinking about those losses. But for now, the Ravens can get ready to host Pittsburgh – a Thanksgiving rivalry game that will have a playoff-like atmosphere.