As the Baltimore Ravens embark on what is surely their biggest game of the season, visiting the Los Angeles Chargers and perhaps in need of a win—they will need help for the division race regardless—the team announced yesterday that they plan not only to retain Head Coach John Harbaugh, but are working on a contract extension as well.
The Ravens were on the verge of watching the 2018 season slip away after falling to 4-5 just beyond the halfway mark of the year, even though they went 3-1 to start out. But then Joe Flacco was sidelined with an injury, and rookie Lamar Jackson has started to the tune of a 4-1 record over the past five games. They now sit a half-game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 8-6 record.
It is at this point that I would like to remind you that Baltimore has not reached the postseason since 2014, and in fact in each of the past two seasons have allowed their chances of making it to slip through their grasp in the final weeks of the year.
In 2016, you will recall, Baltimore was in a very similar position that they are now, at 8-6 and heading into a likely division-determining game against the Steelers in Week 16. That was the Christmas Day game that gave birth to the Immaculate Extension.
The Ravens slipped to 8-7 and then lost in the finale to the Cincinnati Bengals, which cemented their inability to make the postseason, but they also needed a Miami Dolphins loss to occur, which did not happen.
Last season, again, a big late-season loss to the Steelers helped to sabotage the Ravens’ season as Pittsburgh sent them to 7-6 with three games to play. They got to 9-6 by the time of the finale against the Bengals, but, again, Cincinnati came back and won, scoring a late touchdown on a fourth and long at the end of the game.
As for 2018, they would currently make it into the postseason over the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans if they finish the season with the same record, all of them at 8-6 heading into Week 16.
But they have to face the Chargers tomorrow, who are 11-3. If they lose the game, they will stay behind the Steelers even if Pittsburgh loses. If the Steelers win and the Ravens lose, then the former will win the division.
If both the Colts and the Titans win, in addition to Pittsburgh in the event of a Ravens loss, then they will also be eliminated because those two teams play each other in the final game of the season, so one would be guaranteed to have a record better than 9-7.
So, again, as a reminder, the Ravens under Harbaugh are just 48-46 over the past six seasons and have only made the postseason once in that span. They have a history of letting a playoff berth slip through their hands late, and are in pretty good position to see that happen again. This is a critical game for the franchise, even if they are feigning a sense of security by announcing plans for an extension for Harbaugh ahead of it.