www.baltimoresun.com/sports/ravens/ravens-insider/bal-ravens-clinch-at-least-a-wildcard-berth-20121216,0,2288247.story

baltimoresun.com

Despite loss, Ravens clinch fifth straight playoff berth

Steelers' loss gets Ravens no worse than a wild-card spot

By Jeff Zrebiec

9:48 PM EST, December 16, 2012

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Head coach John Harbaugh and several players quickly offered the reminder after today’s embarrassing 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos that the Ravens still have everything that they wanted to accomplish this season right in front of them.

Then, several hours later, the Ravens finally put one goal behind them, courtesy of their biggest rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. With the Steelers’ 27-24 overtime loss to Dallas, the Ravens clinched a playoff berth despite being in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

It is the Ravens’ fifth straight playoff berth, the NFL’s longest such streak. The combination of Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice have been to the playoffs every year since they joined the organization.

Even with the loss, the Ravens still have a one-game lead in the AFC North over the Cincinnati Bengals and a two-game advantage over the Steelers, putting them in good position to defend their AFC North title. The Bengals play the Steelers next week and a Pittsburgh victory, coupled by a Ravens’ win over the New York Giants next Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, would give the Ravens the division title.

If that doesn’t happen, the AFC North won’t be decided until the Ravens visit Cincinnati in Week 16. The Ravens beat the Bengals to open the season.

However, the Ravens’ hope of getting a top two seed and a first-round bye is pretty much gone. At 9-5, the Ravens can’t catch the top-seeded Houston Texans (12-2) and they are now two games behind the Broncos (11-3) and would now lose the tiebreaker. They also trail the New England Patriots who are 10-3 and facing the San Francisco 49ers tonight.