Don’t miss Orioles players, John Means & Paul Fry, as they guest host at our Brews and O’s event!

Road to AFC North title looks smooth

I am about to do something in this space that John Harbaugh hates.

It's something that actually makes the Ravens coach wince when you do it in front of him, which I try not to do out of common courtesy.

But here goes: I'm about to look down the road at the rest of the Ravens' schedule. And in the NFL, where playing 'em one at a time is the official mantra, this is enough to give a coach like Harbaugh the vapors.

On with it, then:

If the Ravens can get past the San Diego Chargers on Sunday — and that's a big if, considering they got waxed out there last year and tend to play poorly wherever frozen drinks are sipped poolside — the rest of the schedule sure sets up favorably.

Yes, they play the Pittsburgh Steelers next week, which is always a battle.

But the game is at M&T; Bank Stadium, where the Ravens hardly ever lose. Plus there's a good chance Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will still be walking the sidelines with that ugly baseball cap and his arm in a sling.

As you may have noticed, the Steelers are beaten up and down to their third-string quarterback, Charlie Batch, who is now old enough to sponsor a line of doilies.

And if Batch goes down, they might be suiting up a Heinz Field peanut vendor next, provided the guy can throw a bag of nuts more than seven or eight rows.

Maybe this is the ultimate sign of the Steelers' troubles: Because of injuries to wide receivers Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery, they just signed Plaxico Burress.

Yes, that Plaxico Burress, the wide receiver who's been out of football since the New York Jets cut him loose after last season.

After the Steelers, the Ravens travel down Interstate 95 to FedEx Field for a game against the Washington Redskins, who have a dangerous quarterback in Robert Griffin III, an injury-racked defense and not much else.

After that, it's back-to-back games against two good teams, the Denver Broncos and New York Giants. But both games are back at the Bank, where — not to beat this to death — the Ravens don't lose.

Then they close out the regular season with a trip to Cincinnati to play the Bengals, who have won two in a row but seem like the same old Bengals, which is definitely not a compliment.

The truth is, all the Ravens probably need to do is go 3-3 the rest of the way to win the AFC North and maybe even get a first-round bye in the playoffs. That's how mediocre the conference is.

On the other hand, you could also see them running the table with that schedule. And if they do, it'll be the ultimate testimonial to their vaunted "Next Man Up" philosophy, considering they've played vast stretches without key defenders Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb, and with Haloti Ngata significantly banged up.

Sure, lots of other teams talk about the "next man up" when injuries hit. But the Ravens seem to embrace the concept more fiercely than just about any other team in the league.

"Our staff does a great job of developing every player on the roster," Harbaugh said when I asked about it the other day. "Whenever they're here, they get coached and we develop them all. We coach them all like they're starters.

"And then there's the fact that we get guys who really love ball. We don't have guys that wait for their opportunity. We have guys who try to make their opportunity every day by how hard they work. . . .

"And it's just so happened that when the chance has come for a lot of these guys, they've been ready and they've done a good job."

They sure have. And because of that, the Ravens stand poised to finish out a terrific season and — to use the favored NFL cliche — control their own destiny in the playoffs.

But first they have to get past the 4-6 Chargers, who are coming off a 30-23 loss at Denver and still have an outside shot at the playoffs.

There's also this: It's supposed to be 70 degrees and sunny in San Diego.

Perfect weather for sipping frozen drinks by the pool.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad