Sitting around the breakfast table this week, my kids asked whether the Ravens were going to make the playoffs.
I explained that even if they beat the Browns in their season finale on Sunday, they will not get to go to the postseason if the Chargers beat the Chiefs.
"That's not fair," my youngest daughter said. "Shouldn't they do some voting thing or something?"
She just turned 7, and she's not yet well versed in the tiebreaker process. Or the democratic process. So my oldest daughter tried to help.
"Technically, that's the way it should be," the 8-year-old said, "because the Chargers played better when they played each other."
Well, for the last six minutes of that game, at least.
And, just as 70,000 fans surmised as they left M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 30, following the Ravens' come-from-ahead loss to San Diego, those six minutes will likely be the difference between going to the playoffs or going home for the offseason.
My kids and so most other youngsters around the region want the season to continue, of course.
But I'm not sure as many as usual adult fans will be all that broken up at seeing this particular season come to an end.
It doesn't get much worse if you're a Ravens fan than having beloved players do things ranging from heinous and criminal (Ray Rice) to stupid and selfish (Haloti Ngata), from having your franchise look bad by association and also by its alleged actions in its handling of the Rice case, and then, on top of it all, having your team just flat-out not perform when it needed to on the field.
The Ravens were put into a position no organization wants to be in when news broke of Rice's deplorable behavior in that Atlantic City elevator. Thrust into the national spotlight, they didn't handle it well, initially backing their player whole-heartedly and possibly coaching or perhaps even somewhat shifting the blame to the victim, and then cutting Rice loose as soon as the now-infamous video turned up and public sentiment turned on them.
The video surfaced just after the Ravens looked pretty rough in a Week 1 home loss to the Bengals. The team responded amid the national firestorm with its best game of the season, whipping Pittsburgh in Week 2. They then did what they always have done under John Harbaugh, they started playing better and got themselves into prime position to make the playoffs and perhaps even win the AFC North.
They were 7-4 after a huge win at New Orleans and a return to the postseason seemed inevitable, particularly when they took a 30-20 lead on the Chargers midway through the fourth quarter. Then they completely forgot how to cover, made some questionable decisions and committed some costly penalties and suddenly they were 7-5. Making matters worse, Ngata, one of their most talented and popular defensive players was lost for the rest of the season for taking Adderall. Two more wins put the Ravens back in control of their situation, but then came their worst showing of the season, a 25-13 loss to the Texans and signed-off-the-street quarterback Case Keenum.
So now it's come to this: Win today and hope that, somehow, the Chargers will lose to the Chiefs, whose starting quarterback is out and whose superstar running back might be.
There won't be many tears around the region if things go according to Hoyle today.
A common sentiment among Ravens fans seems to be, "Well, since they aren't going to win it all anyway, it doesn't really matter to me if they make the playoffs."
But, of course, no one actually knows who's going to win it all. While the Ravens rolled into the playoffs for the first time in 2000 as a juggernaut that had the look of a Super Bowl contender, the 2012 edition lost four out of five to close the regular season. Then Joe Flacco did his whole Joe Hardy thing to become Joe Montana and the next thing you knew, Baltimore was playing lights out football. Literally.
So any other year that sentiment would be faulty — because if fans really knew what was going to happen, Las Vegas would be the size of Uniontown.
But this year, 2014, when the franchise couldn't get its act together when it mattered most either on or off the field, it won't be the worst thing for Ravens fans to simply look forward to a clean slate in 2015.