If you have plans to watch the Ravens on "Sunday Night Football" in December, maybe make sure you have a backup.
Barring a dramatic turnaround in Baltimore and total collapses elsewhere, the Ravens aren't likely to be a serious player in the AFC postseason picture over the final six weeks of this season. That might knock them out of two prime-time games at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens (3-7) are scheduled to host the Seattle Seahawks (5-5) Dec. 13 and the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) Dec. 27. Both games are scheduled 8:30 p.m. kickoffs.
The NFL -- in consultation with CBS, FOX and NBC -- can flex games out of that Sunday night slot this time of year to ensure "quality matchups on Sunday night" and give "surprise teams a chance to play their way onto prime time."
The league must inform teams of any change in the schedule 12 days in advance of the game.
So, the Ravens should find out next week if that game against the Seahawks will still be played in prime time. The Steelers decision, seemingly the more difficult one, won't be due until the following week.
It's hard to figure why the NFL would want Ravens-Seahawks in prime time. Seattle's team is the defending NFC champion, but has struggled to live up to that mantle this season. The Ravens haven't lost a game by more than eight points -- so they're competitive -- but most of their star players (Joe Flacco, Steve Smith Sr., Terrell Suggs, Justin Forsett) are out for the rest of this season.
The Atlanta Falcons (6-4) play the Carolina Panthers (10-0) that week, which would seem to be a better option. Even the Dallas Cowboys (3-7, but in contention in the NFC East with quarterback Tony Romo back from injury) vs. the Green Bay Packers (7-3) might be a more interesting matchup.
The New England Patriots (10-0) vs. the Houston Texans (5-5) and Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (8-2) also seem like better choices.
The Ravens' prime-time game against the Steelers is a little more difficult to figure. The Steelers have a national following, and the Ravens-Steelers rivalry is among the NFL's best. Their game in Week 4 -- when the Ravens were 0-3, mind you, and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was out because of injury -- was TV's top Twitter event of the week. And more traditional television ratings for games in this series are often quite good and sometimes huge.
If you need further proof that the league and networks like this series, the last time the Ravens and Steelers played outside prime time was 2013. The past five games (including the AFC divisional round playoff in January) were played at night.
Still, if the Ravens lose to the Cleveland Browns Monday and the Miami Dolphins Dec. 6 -- the last games the league and networks will be able to see before being forced to make a decision -- they'll be 3-9.
Is any rivalry, with a team that bad, good enough to hold the interest of a national audience?
In Week 15, there's a few better options from a playoff-picture viewpoint. The Green Bay Packers (7-3) play the Arizona Cardinals (8-2), the Minnesota Vikings (7-3) play the St. Louis Rams (4-6) and if Falcons-Panthers isn't flexed in Week 14, well, they play each again in Week 16. The New England Patriots (10-0) play the New York Jets (5-5), too, which might not be a terrible option.
If the Ravens are booted from prime time, the league will move the game to an open Sunday afternoon slot. Don't worry, though, if you like watching the Ravens at night: ESPN is stuck with this coming Monday's game against the Browns (2-8).