So it wasn't surprising to read that when Ravens' coach Brian Billick was asked about his team's chances of making the playoffs, he uttered the magical phrase, "Until we are told that we are mathematically ineligible to make the playoffs, we've still got something to play for".
Usually, when a coach speaks about being mathematically eligible to crawl into the backdoor of the postseason on hands and knees, he's just delaying the inevitable copout for why the club failed to keep their season going.
In other cases, you know a team is finished, but they don't know it themselves.
In the Ravens' case, the coaches and the organization isn't just whistling Dixie about their slim chances of winning the North, which is the only way that they could progress into the postseason, they have a legitimate case to stay somewhat confident.
Yes, it's hard to imagine
When faced with high stakes and must win situations, the Ravens have folded faster than a paper airplane.
With a chance to grab the division lead away from
Against the Dolphins, the Ravens had another opportunity to put themselves over the.500 mark, but they were drilled in
And then there was last Sunday. Everything set itself up perfectly for the Ravens to get themselves positioned to grab the North away from
The Steelers improbably lost to the Texans and while the Browns did pull out a last minute hail mary win over the Jaguars, with a win over the Saints, Baltimore could have at least tied with Cleveland for a second place standing, while positioning themselves a half game back of Pittsburgh for first place.
With that loss, it was pretty clear that the 2002 Ravens' team is just not ready to play with the big boys and more importantly, they don't have the composure to win a game they need to win.
However, they are still in the playoff hunt with a more reasonable chance to make it then some may believe, thanks to the Steelers' inconsistencies, the Browns' unpredictability and an AFC conference that is still jumbled.
Do you honestly want to wager your lifesavings on these two teams pulling themselves together to comfortably assume control of their own destiny? Not me, buddy.
Yeah, I was the guy who said the Steelers were a lock to win the North, while they would face little resistance from Cleveland or Baltimore. I still think they will win the division, but this isn't the same team that routed the Colts and Ravens in back to back weeks, which predictably prompted every "expert" to jump back on their bandwagon.
Following the Steelers' tie with the Falcons, they were waxed by the Titans, struggled to put away both the Bengals and the Jaguars, and last week the final straw broke when they lost by 18-points to the expansion Texans while out gaining Houston by well over 300 yards in total offense.
Now, one beating of the Panthers in a key home game could change things for the Steelers, certainly. However, don't forget that the black and gold still have to face the mighty Buccaneers in
As for the Browns, their chances to win the division are just as doubtful as the Ravens' chances.
Their next three opponents are the Colts, Ravens and Falcons. If
Obviously, the Ravens would want to be one of those three teams that defeat the Browns down the stretch. With a W over
In any case, here is the bottom line. Forget about the Ravens' chances for winning the AFC North. Just think to yourself, can the season finale against the Steelers mean something for this club?
Certainly, with a win over
It doesn't even matter if the Steelers beat the Ravens senseless all over Heinz Field. For this team to have a pseudo playoff game in December would be special.
Hey, getting six wins would have been a tremendous accomplishment, and it's one that the Ravens have already achieved. If the club could notch eight wins, many suggested that Brian Billick should have the coach of the year award renamed after him.
But having the chance to make the playoffs in December? Nobody would have thunk it.
Still, let's take things one game at a time, starting in
The Ravens could just as easily lose three straight games as they could win two of their last three, or three straight altogether. That type of stumbling finish wouldn't devalue their promising season any further, but given their inexperience and lack of talent, it wouldn't be a surprise either.
However, the NFL is a whacky league, so people should keep their minds open to any unforeseen events taking place.
There is a strong possibility that the Patriots and Dolphins' season ending battle in frigid
In the West division, the Chiefs, who are suddenly hotter than
This is the way it should be. Three weeks to go, and virtually every team in the AFC conference still has a chance to play in January, including the roster decimated Ravens.