Though it was pretty obvious a week ago that the Ravens' visit to Detroit for a "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Lions presented another in a long series of must-win situations, the game has gotten progressively more significant as Week 15 has developed.
The Ravens lost some wild-card wiggle room Thursday night when the San Diego Chargers upset the Broncos in Denver. That figured to be the loss that put the Chargers on playoff life support but instead kept them very much in the running for the sixth AFC playoff seed with two home games remaining on their schedule.
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On Sunday afternoon, the Miami Dolphins took away some more of the Ravens' breathing room when they rallied late in the fourth quarter to defeat the New England Patriots and move to 8-6, with seemingly winnable games remaining against the Buffalo Bills and beleaguered New York Jets.
And, finally, the Ravens actually got some help on Sunday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers hammered the Cincinnati Bengals and created the opening the Ravens need to capture the AFC North title if they can find a way to win out. However, their last two games are against division leaders.
That's a very tall order, but it may be what it will take to get into the postseason, since the Dolphins and Chargers are playing very well and will face lesser competition in the final two weeks.
For the Ravens, the AFC North title now may actually be more likely than a wild-card berth, since the Bengals got banged up on Sunday night and can't take next week's game against the suddenly rejuvenated Minnesota Vikings for granted.
But first things first. The Ravens must overcome their struggles on the road and beat the Lions to pull within a game of the Bengals. Then all they have to do is maintain the status quo in the standings next week to set up a Week 17 showdown for the division title in Cincinnati.