OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens stand only two wins from clinching their first playoff berth since 2014, something that appeared to be a long shot only two months ago.
The Ravens had only a projected 25.6 percent chance to reach the postseason after they dropped to 3-4 on the season with a loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 22. With an offensive line already banged up, Baltimore was so shorthanded that running back Buck Allen lined up at wide receiver.
Instead of letting their season spiral downward even farther, the Ravens won five of their past seven games to become a favorite for one of the two wild-card spots. Baltimore is a 13.5-point favorite over the Indianapolis Colts (3-11) on Saturday.
"I do appreciate the character of our team and the resilience of our team and the mental toughness and the focus and the ability to get right at the task at hand and push aside the stuff that is not important and get right at what is important and deal with adversity when it happens, with the different injuries," coach John Harbaugh said. "You are right; it is all around the league. Every team deals with it to one degree or another. We dealt with it quite a bit early and then middle of season. Our guys handled it, and they kept fighting through it. The reports of our demise, I guess, were greatly exaggerated."
The Ravens (8-6) had more adversity to deal with than the other AFC contenders. Their 14 players on injured reserve top the three teams that have already clinched (the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars) and the four teams vying for a postseason berth (the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers).
Baltimore's injured list includes: No. 1 cornerback (Jimmy Smith), two starters on the offensive line (Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis), its top nickel back (Tavon Young), its best special-teams player (Albert McClellan), a former starting tight end (Crockett Gillmore) and an explosive returner (Tim White) for the rest of the season.
These player losses don't count tight end Dennis Pitta, last season's leading pass-catcher who hurt his hip in the offseason, and offensive lineman John Urschel, who surprisingly retired a few hours before the first day of training camp. It also overlooks running back Danny Woodhead and cornerback Maurice Canady, both of whom missed the first half of the season before getting activated off of injured reserve.
The injuries have significantly decreased over the past two months, which has been key in Baltimore's push to the postseason. The Ravens' average margin of victory in their past five wins is 22.2 points.
Baltimore could finish as high as the No. 5 seed if it beats the Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals (5-9).
"We may not do it pretty, but you definitely can’t come after us when it comes to the end result," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We have dealt with a lot of stuff this year, and we could be in a better position than we are right now. But the bottom line is, we still control our own destiny, and we are an 8-6 football team. A lot of people wish they were in our position, so you can’t argue with the fact that we are in position to be a playoff football team, and we are ready to do it."