As the Pittsburgh Steelers marched off the field at M&T Bank Stadium with a hard-fought, heart-stopping 28-24 win on Sunday, the Ravens’ mistakes followed them off the field like a stench that’s impossible to shake.
Those mistakes didn’t just end as the players left the field, either. They’ll reverberate throughout the final nine games of the 2020 season and impact the AFC playoff picture.
With the loss, Baltimore (5-2) fell two games behind the Steelers for the lead in the AFC North. They’ll still have a game to play, on Thanksgiving night in Pittsburgh, but the best the Ravens can hope for now is a season split with the 7-0 Steelers. And with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs already on the ledger, Baltimore is now in trouble in the AFC playoff picture as the calendar flips to November.
“I feel we’re in a great spot,” Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “We’ve just got to finish. Our defense played great. Our offense did good. No turnovers, we’re winning the game. I feel we’re not peeking ahead. We’re doing great. We’re just going to get in practice, and we’re going to work hard.”
While it’s still too early to start projecting playoff matchups or seeding, Baltimore is now two games behind Pittsburgh for the division lead and in the midst of the toughest part of their schedule.
They’ll face the Indianapolis Colts next week, then head to New England for Sunday Night Football against the Patriots before a home matchup with the Tennessee Titans in Baltimore. Then, it’s that second date with the Steelers on Thanksgiving.
As it stands now, the Ravens have put themselves in a hole through seven games.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t seen every team in the AFC or every playoff team, I don’t think,” said tackle Orlando Brown Jr. “I know for us personally, there’s a lot of room for us to grow offensively, and everything we want is right in front of us. We’re going to have to go to work and take it.”
The Ravens’ Week 3 loss to the Chiefs is likely to come into play. Kansas City sits at 7-1 and are in a good spot for the AFC’s lone bye in this year’s playoffs.
A year ago, Baltimore won 12 straight games after a win over the Steelers in Week 5 and marched to the AFC’s top seed. This year, that rapid rise in the standings seems unlikely.
“It’s Week 8 we just finished,” said defensive end Calais Campbell. “Whole lot of football left to be played. So, just got to take it one play at a time, one day at a time and find a way to win some ballgames. All this means is that we won’t go better than 14-2, but at the same time, there’s a lot of football left to be played. Just take it one day at a time and find some ways to win some ballgames.”
The Ravens are too talented to be out of contention for a playoff spot - they are the No. 5 seed after Sunday's action. That's something that seemed to be a lock when the season started.
What is in danger now, though, is playoff seeding atop the conference and any kind of home-field advantage. That means if the Ravens want to accomplish their Super Bowl dreams they might need to win three games on the road to get there.