Thanks in part to a ton of muddle in the middle of the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens have put themselves back in playoff position, in spite of a record that still leaves them a game under .500. After defeating the New York Jets, the Ravens enter a six-way tie for the sixth and final seed in the AFC playoff race.
A week after their best game of the season on the ground, the ineptitude returned to that facet of the game, but their defense and some big-time Joe Flacco throws produced more than enough to defeat a floundering Jets team. In spite of his fourth straight game with an interception, Flacco looked as sharp as he has in weeks and completed a game-sealing bomb to Jacoby Jones that could not have been thrown any better, and burned former Ravens’ great Ed Reed to boot.
Meanwhile, his counterpart, Geno Smith, who seems to be regressing with every passing week, was more helpful to Baltimore than he was New York, as he gave the Ravens the ball three times and was forced into 13 incompletions on 22 attempts. That 41 percent success rate will get you into the MLB Hall of Fame, but as an NFL quarterback? It will get you on the bench sooner rather than later, and the talk that will permeate the unforgiving New York media will likely surround the question of how much patience Rex Ryan can have for his rookie quarterback.
For the Ravens, the defense may have capitalized more off of an overmatched rookie than any necessarily stellar performances from the unit, but they will hope to ride the momentum Thanksgiving night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The red-hot Steelers are back from the dead as well, and are one of the aforementioned six teams tied for the final wild card spot. Pittsburgh currently holds the tiebreaker over Baltimore, by way of their head-to-head Week 7 victory at Heinz Field. As almost all of these grudge matches are, that game was a punch-and-counterpunch affair, which the Steelers won with a 42-yard Shaun Suisham field goal as time expired.
Fans can expect another nail biter, but Baltimore hopes to have the edge this time at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Ravens hold a 4-1 record on the season. With both teams coming off of their best games of the year, the rivalry will, if possible, be even more intense than before, as each team continues to climb back into playoff contention after burying themselves with poor play early in the season.
As the seedings are finalized at the end of the year, this will likely be the game that determines who is still alive for the final spot and which proud franchise is left on the outside looking in.