Win & In

Even loss to Jags might not eliminate Ravens from playoffs

December 22, 2008|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

A day after they made NFL history in a 33-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys, the Ravens got some definition on their potential playoff future.

If the Ravens (10-5) beat the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, they would clinch the sixth and final AFC playoff spot and play at the AFC East winner in the first round of the playoffs.

The Miami Dolphins (10-5) have the best shot to capture the division, needing only to win at the New York Jets (9-6).

The New England Patriots (10-5) would win the AFC East if they defeat the Bills in Buffalo and the Jets beat the Dolphins. And the Jets would win the division if they knock off the Dolphins and the Patriots lose.

By beating the Cowboys, the Ravens continue to control their future, but their postseason chances wouldn't necessarily end with a loss.

Even if the Jaguars delivered the upset - Jacksonville has lost five of its past six games - the Ravens would still reach the postseason if New England falters, too.

The Ravens would own the tiebreaker over the Patriots if they finish with the same record (by virtue of conference record).

They would also have the edge over whichever team loses between the Dolphins (the Ravens won the head-to-head meeting) and the Jets (the Ravens would have the better overall record).

"Bottom line, we're right where we need to be," middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "One more game and then we can talk about the playoffs."

The Ravens can only hope their path to the playoffs is as clear as their running lanes against the Cowboys on Saturday.

A look at the rushing marks achieved by the Ravens:

* The Ravens became the first team in NFL history to record rushing touchdowns of 75 or more yards on consecutive plays, when Willis McGahee ran for a 77-yard touchdown and Le'Ron McClain followed with an 82-yard score.

* McClain's 82-yard touchdown was the longest run by a visiting player in Texas Stadium's 37-year history and tied the longest run in Ravens history (Jamal Lewis had an 82-yard touchdown against the Cleveland Browns in 2003).

* The Ravens' 265 rushing yards were the third most in team history (they had 343 against Cleveland in the first meeting in 2003 and 276 in the second one).

The Ravens' dominance came against a Dallas defense that had shut down teams on the ground recently. The Cowboys had not allowed more than 80 rushing yards in any of their previous four games, and they had held teams to fewer than 100 yards in the previous five.

The Ravens produced 174 rushing yards in the fourth quarter alone.

"Our offensive line just kept hammering a great defense and a great defensive front," coach John Harbaugh said. "They finally cracked in the fourth quarter. That's a credit to our offense."

History says the Ravens will finish off the Jaguars as they did the Cowboys.

The Ravens have won their last regular-season game at home for the past five years. In their four playoff seasons, the Ravens have finished strongly, beating their final regular-season opponent at home by double digits three times.

"All we have to do is get in the dance," Lewis said. "This team has its own identity, and it's a great identity."

JAGUARS (5-10) @RAVENS (10-5)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13

Line: Ravens

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