Don’t look now (seriously, you probably don’t want to look now), but the Baltimore Ravens are suddenly rising up from the grave and breathing down the Pittsburgh Steelers’ necks. Just as their season appeared to be lost, suffering a big defeat against the Steelers and losing Joe Flacco for a while in the process, they have instead turned around and gone on a three-game winning streak.
They have pulled themselves up from being a sub-.500 team to suddenly two games ahead in the win column at 7-5, and coupled with a pair of Steelers defeats, are not just half a game behind Pittsburgh for the lead in the AFC North with four game left to play.
The only margin between the two teams right now at the moment is essentially T.J. Watt’s blocked field goal at the end of the overtime period back in Week One against the Cleveland Browns that preserved a tie. Many said at the time that that felt like a loss, but had it actually been a lost, Pittsburgh would be looking at a shared record. Though it’s worth noting that they have already guaranteed a better divisional record, so the Steelers would win in a head-to-head tiebreaker if they finish with the same record.
But Baltimore’s remaining schedule is actually no walk through the park. The Steelers still have to head to New Orleans and will host the New England Patriots in a couple of weeks, but the Ravens still have to travel to face both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, with home games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cleveland Browns rounding out their schedule.
Both the Steelers and Ravens have two very big games against two of the best offenses in the NFL remaining on their schedule, and each of them could very realistically lose both of them. But Pittsburgh cannot afford to have any margin for error from this point forward. They may well have to win against either the Patriots or the Saints just to win the AFC North and host a postseason game.
We’re not even talking about the wild aspirations of a postseason bye anymore. Two weeks ago this was a team that had just two losses and a tie. Now they’ve lost four games, plus the half-loss that the tie accounts for in the reckoning of the overall winning percentage.
That’s already 50 percent more games they’ve lost this season compared to last year when they had a bye week for the first time since 2010, finishing with a 13-3 record. That hope has faded and would require at least three losses from two different teams over which they have no control in order to secure at this point.
But they still control the AFC North, and that is what they have to focus on. The Ravens have made it very interesting, but they have to stay one step ahead of Baltimore down the home stretch.