Playoff outlook unchanged for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS -- Even though their early bid to clinch the AFC North title was blocked by the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday, the Baltimore Ravens' outlook on the playoffs hasn't changed dramatically. After dropping to the third playoff seed in the AFC behind the San Diego Chargers (10-2), Baltimore (9-3) remains in control of its destiny and still holds a two-game advantage over the Bengals(7-5).

Now, the Ravens will have to wait at least two weeks to clinch the division as they prepare to play the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Ravens remain ahead of the fourth-seeded New England Patriots (9-3) because of a superior conference record.
"Certainly, the lost opportunity on Thursday is the toughest thing," Billick said. "That would have brought a certain amount of definition to it. Even if that had gone a different way, I would be standing here with no different mindset or objective. It's always about the next game.
"Quite frankly, I don't know if it changes anything. It is beginning to get interesting. Like I said last week, it's going to come down to that last week in a number of different ways."
Billick reiterated that, in hindsight, he wouldn't alter the way he prepared his team for last Thursday's 13-7 defeat at Paul Brown Stadium where he gave his players Monday off following a 27-0 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and then conducted two light walkthroughs. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis had his team practice every single day.
"I really don't know that I would change anything that I did," Billick said. "I think we got done what we needed to get done. It was a tight timeframe. If we had practiced aggressively, I don't know if that would have yielded anything."
After losing to Cincinnati, Billick gave his players off of practice until Wednesday, but did have them come in to lift weights Monday. The coaching staff worked on installing the Kansas City game plan Friday and Monday.
"You can spend too much time on an opponent," Billick said. "We could have done a short workout, but if you install that game plan too early, it can become stale."
Billick is banking that the five days off will act as sort of a second bye. Baltimore has gone 5-1 since its actual bye week.
"There was a freshness the last time we had off that was a benefit to us," he said. "I hope we can do the same thing."
TRANSACTIONS: The Ravens placed return specialist B.J. Sams on injured reserve Monday with a fractured right ankle along with backup fullback Justin Green (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and backup defensive tackle Justin Bannan (dislocated toe).
Baltimore signed former Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans fullback Nick Luchey (6-foot-2, 273 pounds), inside linebacker Tim Johnson (6-0, 245 pounds) and promoted defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison (6-3, 318) from the practice squad.
The Ravens tried out former Pro Bowl alternate fullback Alan Ricard, who they cut in July, on Saturday along with former Atlanta Falcons fullback Kevin Dudley, but decided not to sign the oft-injured lead blocker. Luchey will back up starter Ovie Mughelli.
"It would have been great to have Alan back, but once we went through the whole process, the personnel side, coaching, the doctors, everybody came together and said, ‘This is just what the sum total is,'" Billick said. "It just seemed like the prudent thing to do. We definitely needed the presence of a legitimate I-formation fullback to back up Ovie."
The Ravens also re-signed defensive tackle Remi Ayodele to the practice squad, who, like Johnson, was in their training camp.
TRAINING ROOM: Billick expressed confidence that offensive guard Keydrick Vincent (groin) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (hamstring) were likely to return Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Although Billick praised rookie offensive guard Chris Chester, who has started the past three games in place of Vincent, he didn't declare him as the starter for the remainder of the season.
"It wasn't too big for him, but Keydrick Vincent was playing very well for us before he got hurt," Billick said. "Had we played on Sunday, I think Dan and Keydrick could have very well been available to us."
Meanwhile, Billick didn't have an immediate time table on Sams' rehabilitation or whether he will require surgery.
"It's going to be long-term obviously," Billick said. "That was a very severe injury."
Billick added that left guard Jason Brown, who briefly left the game against Cincinnati with a leg injury, should be all right for Sunday.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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