Wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace shared neighboring lockers last night at Gillette Stadium, but their outlook on where the Ravens now stand in the AFC playoff picture was quite different.
Speaking following the Ravens' 30-23 loss to the AFC-best New England Patriots, Smith said the defeat "changes a lot," and "puts us behind the 8-ball." Wallace, however, said he didn't think the loss changes much at all.
"To me, it was going to come down to the game in Pittsburgh regardless," Wallace said. "You obviously want to win every game you play, but unfortunately, that's not the way the game goes. We have an opportunity to win the division. No matter if we won today, win next week, we still have to beat Pittsburgh to win the division."
The Ravens woke up Tuesday morning out of the AFC playoff picture. Their second loss in six games drops them to eighth in the conference, one game behind the Steelers (8-5) in the AFC North, and one game behind the Denver Broncos (8-5) for the second wild-card spot.
Coach John Harbaugh summed up the team's position succinctly and said the Ravens know they need to win out. That's likely true if they have visions of winning the AFC North. If the Ravens win their final three games, which include the Christmas Day matchup against the division-leading Steelers, they'll win the AFC North.
But if they lose the Steelers game and beat the Philadelphia Eagles at home Sunday and the Cincinnati Bengals on the road in the regular-season finale, they still could get the final wild-card spot. However, they'd need some definite help.
Below is a look at where things stand with the wild-card contenders:
Fifth seed (first wild card) - Oakland Raiders (10-3): at Chargers (5-8); vs. Colts (6-7); at Broncos (8-5).
Skinny: At 10-3, the Raiders and Chiefs are tied for the AFC West lead, but the Chiefs have the edge because they swept Oakland in two games this year. Either way, barring an unlikely collapse, one of the two wild-card spots will go to the second place team in the AFC West.
Sixth seed (second wild card) - Denver Broncos (8-5): vs. Patriots (11-2); at Chiefs (10-3); vs. Raiders (10-3).
Skinny: The Broncos were seemingly in control of a wild-card spot late last month, but they've since lost three of their past five games. Their remaining schedule includes games against the three top teams in the AFC record-wise. A 5-4 conference record might not help them in tiebreaker scenarios either.
Seventh seed – Miami Dolphins (8-5): at Jets (4-9); at Bills (6-7); vs. Patriots (11-2).
Skinny: Miami has the easiest road among all the contenders for the second wild-card spot, but they'll likely have to navigate it with veteran backup quarterback Matt Moore, who will replace an injured Ryan Tannehill. If Patriots have clinched the AFC's top seed, they would likely rest most of their starters in Week 17.
Eighth seed – Baltimore Ravens (7-6): vs. Eagles (5-8); at Steelers (8-5); at Bengals (5-7-1).
Skinny: If the Ravens go 2-1 in their last three games and the one loss is to Pittsburgh, they could theoretically still get into the playoffs as the final wildcard. However, they'd need the Broncos and Dolphins to each lose two of their final three games, and they'd need the Tennessee Titans to lose one of their final three. In the Ravens' favor is their victory earlier this month over the Dolphins – head-to-head is the first tiebreak for a wild-card tie – and their 7-3 conference record. That's the second tiebreak.
Ninth seed – Tennessee Titans (7-6): at Chiefs (10-3); at Jaguars (2-11); vs. Texans (7-6).
Skinny: The Titans and Houston Texans currently have the same record atop the AFC South, but Houston beat Tennessee in October. They'll meet again in Week 17. The Titans have a 4-5 record against AFC foes, so it will be tough for them to get a wild card unless they win out.