DAVID GINSBURG, AP Sports Writer
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — If the NFL playoffs began this week, the Baltimore Ravens wouldn’t be part of the fun.READ MORE: Morgan State University Awarded $6.25M From Apple & Google
Fortunately for the Ravens, they’ve still got three weeks to make up the difference. Even better, they don’t have to depend on anyone else to reach the postseason.
Though Monday night’s 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots dropped Baltimore (7-6) out of a tie for the lead in the AFC North, the ramifications of the defeat were not catastrophic for their playoff hopes.
If the Ravens win their final three games, they will open the playoffs at home as division champions. And maybe, soon after that, they’ll have a chance to avenge that loss to the Patriots.
“We’ve got to move on,” safety Lardarius Webb said Wednesday. “If we handle our business and win three games in a row — one at a time — we can still reach our goals. Hopefully we see those guys again in the playoffs.”
The pivotal stretch begins Sunday with the regular season home finale against the fading Philadelphia Eagles (5-8), who have lost four straight and six of seven.
“The opportunity to control you own fate with victory is really what you hope for at this time of the season,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Two teams in our division have that — us and the Steelers — and we’ll both be fighting for that division championship. All that depends on the task at hand, which is the next game. We have to beat the Philadelphia Eagles to make it count.”
After facing the Eagles, Baltimore travels to Pittsburgh (8-5) for a Christmas Day matchup and finishes at Cincinnati (5-7-1).
The Ravens’ 21-14 win over the Steelers on Nov. 6 was pivotal in setting up Baltimore for a push to the postseason. If Baltimore wins at Pittsburgh next week and the teams end up with identical records, the Ravens will capture the division title by virtue of the two-game sweep.READ MORE: How One Baltimore Business Owner Is Carrying On The Legacy Of The Women's Industrial Exchange
Looking ahead to the Pittsburgh game would be a huge mistake.
“It’s clean cut, man,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “If we lose to the Eagles, what chance do we really have?”
So, the Ravens intend to bring all the enthusiasm they can muster into Sunday’s game.
“We’ve got to play hard, we have to play dangerous, we have to play reckless,” receiver Steve Smith said.
The Ravens will have a new face on the field Sunday: Michael Campanaro was signed from the practice squad to return kicks. He replaces Devin Hester, who was cut on Tuesday.
“That was a little bit of a tough move, just because we have so much respect for Devin,” Harbaugh said. “I told him, I feel like we didn’t do enough to make the return game productive enough. Nothing against Devin.”
Harbaugh was unwilling to give an update on cornerback Jimmy Smith, whose status for Sunday is uncertain. Smith left the New England with an ankle sprain and did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.
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