Yesterday, Jason La Canfora reported that John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens were “very likely headed to a ‘mutual parting of the ways’ in 2019” and also that “[t]he odds of Harbaugh being back in Baltimore in 2019 are quite bleak.”
Now, La Canfora also said that he thinks this could be true even if the Ravens get into the playoffs, and the issue is that Harbaugh isn’t going to go into another lame duck year without a longer term deal, and will be in demand if he is a free agent. Could you imagine if Harbaugh was available? The Packers, the Browns, and several other franchises would be in the mix and he would have his choice of jobs. There’s also a new GM in Baltimore and that could affect the dynamics.
But winning and playoff appearances do have a way of turning attitudes and making bedfellows lay down together, and Harbaugh did win a Super Bowl with the organization. Right now, Baltimore is outside of playoff position, but things broke about as perfectly as possible while they had a bye week.
The Bengals, who were in the 6th slot, got destroyed at home by the Saints and have been trending the wrong direction over the last month, and are without A.J. Green.
The Dolphins, who were the other team over .500, lost at Green Bay handily and look like a pretender, and now sit at 5-5.
The Titans did pull the upset in destroying the Patriots, moving them to 5-4, but Baltimore does hold the tiebreaker based on a head-to-head win of Tennessee earlier this year, and all they need to do is keep them close.
Baltimore’s chances rely heavily on avenging their earlier loss to the Bengals and continuing Cincinnati’s free fall next week at home. If they do that–and they may have to do it with Lamar Jackson instead of Joe Flacco if Flacco’s hip injury keeps him out– they will be right in the mix. And let’s not forget that Baltimore has by far the best point differential of any of the contenders for the final playoff spot in the AFC. They are 0-4 in close games and have managed to have a losing record while outscoring opponents by 53. How rare is that?
Here’s a list of the teams with the best point differentials to have a losing record after nine games (since 1978):
- San Francisco, 1991, 4-5, +66 (10-6)
- Baltimore, 2018, 4-5, +53 (??-??)
- San Francisco, 2003, 4-5, +50 (7-9)
- Tampa Bay, 2003, 4-5, +47 (7-9)
- San Diego, 2010, 4-5, +42 (9-7)
- NY Jets, 2009, 4-5, +42 (9-7)
Those other five teams combined to go 22-13 over the rest of the season. Baltimore gets Cincinnati and then the hapless Raiders at home in the next two weeks and can be right back in great position shortly. They then would need to win at home against Browns and Bucs, and pull one road win out against the Chiefs, Chargers, and Falcons to put themselves in great position for the final wildcard spot.