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Kings of mediocre, Ravens considered front-runner for final AFC playoff spot

Joe Flacco and the Ravens have a favorable schedule down the stretch. Michael Reaves/Getty Images

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have a projected 50.5 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to ESPN Analytics.

That makes the Ravens (4-5) currently the kings of the mediocre in the AFC.

Outside of the teams with the five best records in the conference (Pittsburgh, New England, Jacksonville, Kansas City and Tennessee), no one else in the AFC has better than a 23 percent chance of reaching the postseason.

"We’re right there," Ravens wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "If we want it, we can take it. It’s right there. But we just have to go out and be aggressive and just know that we can win these games."

Coming off its bye, Baltimore is one game behind the Buffalo Bills (5-4), who got routed by the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, for the sixth and final postseason berth in the AFC. The Ravens, though, have a more favorable road the rest of way than the other contenders in the conference. Over its final seven games, Baltimore faces three backup quarterbacks (Brett Hundley, Tom Savage and Jacoby Brissett) and three teams with winning records (Green Bay, Detroit and Pittsburgh).

It's a decidedly tougher stretch for the other teams vying for the playoffs. The Bills and Miami Dolphins (4-4) each have two games against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (7-2) remaining and a visit to the Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) left on their schedules. The Oakland Raiders (4-5) still have to play at the Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) and have a game against the Patriots in Mexico City.

What's also working to the Ravens' advantage is they hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Dolphins and Raiders. Baltimore has beaten them by a combined score of 70-17 this season.

"There is a lot of opportunity out there," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "We can’t dwell on the fact that we are 4-5. We can’t go back and change that. It is what it is, and we have to put that out of our mind the best we can. We have to have a short memory and just go out there and play football."

It's peculiar to think of the Ravens as the front-runner for anything positive with the way they've struggled this season. Baltimore has lost five of its past seven games and hasn't won in consecutive weeks since the first two of the season.

Still, the Ravens' remaining seven opponents have combined for a 30-38 record (.441), which is one of the easiest schedules for the final two months of the regular season.

"We can’t look ahead that far, because when you start doing that and you start trying to look at the big picture of everything every single day, that just wears on you mentally," Flacco said. "It is just too much for us to handle. We have to take it one week at a time. It is cliché as it can be, but we have to do that. We have to look at what is important now, and for us, that is getting a little bit of a break here and focusing on the Green Bay Packers."

If the Ravens are going to reach the postseason for the first time since 2014, they most likely have to do so as a wild card. Baltimore trails first-place Pittsburgh (7-2) by three games with seven weeks left. The Ravens have a 2.4 percent chance of winning the AFC North.

Baltimore's most plausible path is that No. 6 seed in the AFC. The Ravens face only two quarterbacks the rest of the way who have a passer rating in the top 20 (Matthew Stafford and Andy Dalton). The others are in the second half of the NFL: Jacoby Brissett, Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Hundley, Tom Savage and DeShone Kizer.

Baltimore has a good shot of getting back on track offensively as well. Flacco and the Ravens go against just one top-10 defense (Pittsburgh) after seeing five of them in the first nine weeks of the season.

The Ravens, who are 2.5-point favorites Sunday at Green Bay, could be favored to win every remaining game except for the one at Pittsburgh.

"I’ve been in this league long enough; you know anything can happen coming down the stretch," Flacco said. "Things can start clicking for you. But we need to win football games, and we need to make it happen on our side of the ball."