When it comes time for the playoff picture to start taking shape, teams never want to be in a situation where their pathway to the promised land is out of their control.
With the Cincinnati Bengals losing 30-20 to the Pittburgh Steelers on Sunday night, the Baltimore Ravens now control their own destiny to not only a playoff berth in the AFC, but a third consecutive AFC North crown. Most people, including myself, wrote this team off at 4-6 after bad losses to the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns during a three-game stretch to start November. Baltimore has everyone right where they want them, and in the role they cherish each and every year as the underdog.
The Miami Dolphins are right behind them in the Wild Card, but the Ravens don’t have to worry about any external factors anymore and have bigger plans in mind when it comes to postseason seeding. Coming off of a season-changing win like they had in Week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings, this potentially could be the most dangerous team to play in the NFL.
Sure, the talent pool and roster is much different from year’s past. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis aren’t suiting up and in their prime for the purple and black anymore, but good organizations find ways to climb peaks and valleys like losing two first-ballot Hall-of-Famers and retool for the following season.
They face a team on Monday night in the Detroit Lions who is in the same boat as they are: if they win out, the divisional crown is theirs, as is a playoff berth. Baltimore is just 2-4 in dome stadiums — Reliant Stadium in Houston doesn’t count as a true dome in my eyes as it has a retractable roof — but they’ve won their last two games in said settings.
When the Ravens traveled to face the St. Louis Rams in 2011, Baltimore demolished them in front of their home crowd 37-7. And we all know what happened in Super Bowl XLVII in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the Ravens were victorious 34-31 over the San Francisco 49ers. Just a few more reasons to be excited for this prime time soiree.