OWINGS MILLS, Md. — John Harbaugh delivered a message to those who have written off the Baltimore Ravens:
“Nothing is over, so all of you guys who counted us out, we aren’t out. We’re not dead. Sorry.”
By beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Ravens did more than end a three-game losing streak and even their record at 5-5. Baltimore now owns the No. 6 seed and is the favorite to capture the final playoff spot in the AFC.
With six games remaining, the Ravens have a 41.2 percent chance of making the postseason, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. The playoff odds for the other 5-5 teams in the AFC are: the Colts (33.6 percent), Titans (17.3 percent), Bengals (17 percent) and Dolphins (4.3 percent).
“Anybody who thinks that we have it clinched, no. No way,” Harbaugh said. “It’s going to be the teams that play the best, the teams that play the best football the next six weeks, starting this week, and that’s going to be our focus.”
How many wins will it take for the Ravens to end a three-year playoff drought? Reaching 10 victories virtually guarantees a postseason berth. Winning nine is more a roll of the dice.
Over the previous five seasons, 13 teams in the AFC have finished with a 9-7 record and five clinched a playoff spot. That’s 39 percent.
To get to 10 wins, the Ravens would have to take care of their home games (Oakland, Tampa Bay and Cleveland) and win at least two of their remaining three road games (Atlanta, Kansas City and Los Angeles Chargers). That could be a problem because Baltimore is 1-4 on the road in December since 2015 (at Cleveland last season is only victory).
“They’re must-wins from here on out,” safety Eric Weddle said. “When our backs are against the wall, we play much better. So we’re excited for that.”
Like many of the 5-5 teams, the Ravens have their faults. Baltimore has lacked explosiveness in the passing game. Since Week 5, the Ravens have produced six pass plays of 25 yards or more (only the Washington Redskins have fewer).
Defensively, Baltimore has failed to generate any interceptions or fumbles. The Ravens’ last turnover was in the first quarter against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 21. That means Baltimore has gone 15 quarters without a turnover.
The most overlooked stumbling block for Baltimore has been handling success. The Ravens followed up a big win at Pittsburgh in September with a loss in Cleveland. Later, they shut out the Titans in Tennessee before going on a three-game skid.
The Ravens understand they have to handle business against the struggling Raiders (2-8) on Sunday. Baltimore is a double-digit favorite for the first time this season.
“The first thing Coach Harbaugh said when we got back Monday was don’t worry about the outside noise,” middle linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “We can only control what we can control. We did a great job to win this game [against the Bengals], but it doesn’t mean anything unless we win this week.”
Only two of the Ravens’ last six opponents currently have winning records (the Chiefs and Chargers). Baltimore’s remaining opponents have a combined 28-32-1 record.
“All the critics, I’m dead to them,” Harbaugh said. “All of the people that all of a sudden are going to pat you on the back and say, ‘You’re in sixth place,’ that’s meaningless. Let’s go win a football game.”