Ravens' path to playoffs involves getting 2 wins at home
(AP Photo/David Richard)
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens path to the playoffs is devoid of tiebreakers, scoreboard watching or lengthy plane trips.
For the Ravens (8-6) to end a two-year hiatus from the postseason, all they have to do is win their last two games - both at home against teams that long ago were eliminated from playoff contention.
Now that's a home stretch to savor.
Then again, coach John Harbaugh is taking nothing for granted as he prepares his team for Saturday's game against Indianapolis (3-11) and the New Year's Eve finale against Cincinnati (5-9).
"We're going to need to play our best football to accomplish what we're trying to accomplish," Harbaugh said Monday.
Judging by past performances, the odds are stacked heavily in favor of the Ravens.
Baltimore is 58-20 at home during the regular season during Harbaugh's 10-year run, including 15-7 in December. The Ravens have allowed an NFL-low 16.4 points per game at home over that span and have an average victory margin of 14.2 points.
They're 4-2 in their own stadium this season, including a 40-0 rout of Miami and a 44-20 win over Detroit.
In their road finale Sunday, Baltimore avoided the temptation of looking past winless Cleveland. After a slow start, the Ravens outscored the Browns 10-0 in the second half and pulled away to a 27-10 victory .
Not long after the final whistle, the players began thinking about facing Indianapolis. Although it's going to take two wins to get into the postseason, the Ravens will worry about the Bengals next week.
"If you look ahead, you set yourself up for a trap," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "All we can focus on is feeling good about this game and looking forward to the next game."
Against Cleveland, Flacco threw for a season-high 288 yards and Mike Wallace had six catches for 89 yards to back up a defense that forced four turnovers. In a must-win situation, the Ravens did exactly that.
"I live for this type of stuff. Nothing is ever going to make me nervous," Wallace said. "Every game is a playoff game from here on out. We want to be in the real playoffs, and right now every week is the playoffs."
It's an ideal situation for a team that's battled through injuries and bounced back from a 4-5 start.
"I do appreciate the character of our team, the resilience of our team," Harbaugh said. "We dealt with (injuries) quite a bit probably early and in the middle of the season, and our guys handled it and they kept fighting through it.
"The reports of our demise, I guess, were greatly exaggerated. But we have a long way to go, and it runs through M&T Bank Stadium."
"Both of those guys will do everything they can to get back this week, with varying degrees of likelihood," Harbaugh said. "It kind of depends on how they come along in the next couple of days. More likely that it wouldn't be this week, and it could be the week after."
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Updated December 18, 2017