Ravens face must-win vs. Eagles (Dec 18, 2016)
The Baltimore Ravens face a vital game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium to keep their postseason hopes alive.
The Eagles (5-8), meanwhile, are trying to snap a four-game losing streak that has all but ended any shot at the playoffs.
With a 30-23 setback to New England on Monday night, Baltimore (7-6) fell into second place in the AFC North behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, who also took the Ravens' spot as the third seed in the postseason standings. Baltimore, however, still controls its playoff destiny and will win the division with victories in the final three games.
"This is at least where you want to be," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "The opportunity to control your own fate with victory is really what you hope for at this time of the season. Two teams in our division have that -- us and the Steelers. We'll both be fighting for that division championship."
Despite the recent losing streak, the Eagles are mathematically still alive in the playoff race. However, Philadelphia has to win its final regular season games, and needs the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and Redskins to go winless over that stretch to make the postseason, among other scenarios.
A win by Philadelphia on Sunday would create a similar uphill battle for Baltimore.
"It's frustrating because you put so much work in -- players and coaches -- during the week, and you want to go out there and you want to perform well," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said in a conference call with the Baltimore media. "When it doesn't happen, that's the frustrating part. The beauty of it is you can come back to work the next week and get ready for your next opponent. It's just unfortunate you're running out of weeks."
After a strong start, rookie quarterback Carson Wentz has struggled over the past few weeks running an injury-marred offense. Wentz, who has thrown for 3,215 yards with 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, will face an aggressive Ravens defense that will try to keep him under pressure throughout the game.
"The first thing you see when you turn on the tape, of the defense especially, is a really sound football team," Wentz said about the Ravens. "They fly around. Obviously, (safety) Eric Weddle back there, he's all over the field making plays everywhere. A guy like (linebacker) Terrell Suggs, you have to always know where he's at. We have our work cut out for us, but we're excited for the challenge."
Wentz will look to get tight end Zach Ertz involved early to keep Baltimore's defense off-balance. Ertz has been a key part of the offense over the past two weeks when he has been targeted 28 times and managed 19 receptions for 191 yards.
"We are learning on the fly," Ertz said about working with Wentz. "We didn't really get a lot of reps during the pre-season so everything has been kind of building and building with a lot of the guys. Carson is a heck of a talent and we have a lot of talent at the skill positions."
Baltimore will attack the Eagles' with an its imbalanced offense. Quarterback Joe Flacco has attempted 554 passes this season, while the Ravens have run the ball just 301 times.
Flacco is ranked fifth in the NFL with 3,582 passing yards. He also has 17 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.
Flacco, however, is more concerned about winning the final three games and overtaking Pittsburgh for the AFC North title, which would mean a home playoff game.
"It doesn't really matter what our record is," Flacco said. "We've just got to win our games. Obviously, Pittsburgh is a game ahead of us, but we still have another game against them at their place, so it will be tough, but we've just got to focus one week at a time and go win football games."
The Ravens know they just need a victory to keep moving toward their goal. Baltimore certainly will not be looking past Philadelphia.
"We've got Philly coming in to our place for our last home game in front of our fans in the regular season and they're a good team even though they've lost a couple of games," linebacker Zachary Orr said. "They're a good team."