Ravens somehow in playoff hunt despite no wins in 29 days

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens come off their bye with a question mark at quarterback and no wins since Oct. 14.

The Ravens also find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt, compliments of the bland AFC.

Baltimore (4-5) is one game out of the No. 6 and final postseason spot in the AFC, trailing the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-4) and Miami Dolphins (5-5). The Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the Titans and play host to the Bengals on Sunday.

It feels like the Ravens are anything but a playoff contender, given the current circumstances. Baltimore has lost four of its past five games, including three in a row. An increasing portion of the fan base wants rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson to take over at starting quarterback, and that was before the reports of Joe Flacco's hip injury. And coach John Harbaugh has been fielding questions about his job security with his team once again in a midseason slide.

"We’re walking on faith right now, because we believe in each other in the locker room and the coaching staff, that we can get it done -- whether the outside world believes it or not," cornerback Jimmy Smith said.

The Ravens can rest their hopes on something more than inner conviction. Baltimore's chance of reaching the postseason is 36.1 percent, according to ESPN's Power Football Index. Among the teams contending for that No. 6 spot in the AFC, only the Titans (43 percent) have a better projected playoff chance than the Ravens.

The reality is that the final playoff team in the AFC is going to be flawed and a huge drop-off from the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans and Los Angeles Chargers.

The Bengals have a historically bad defense. The Titans have one of the NFL's worst offenses. And the Dolphins are starting Brock Osweiler at quarterback.

Baltimore has done nothing to inspire confidence in getting thoroughly outplayed by Carolina and Pittsburgh. But it was just a few weeks ago that the Ravens were a last-minute extra point away from going to overtime with the New Orleans Saints, who've since become the popular choice to win the Super Bowl.

"This is not a 4-5 team," tight end Mark Andrews said. "This is a team that has a ton of potential and a ton of ability. We’ve shown that."

The Ravens have also shown the ability to rebound in November and December. In 2014, Baltimore started 5-4 before winning five of its last seven games to make the playoffs at 10-6. Last year, the Ravens won five of their last seven to finish 9-7 after a 4-5 start.

Could the Ravens have another run in them this year? Baltimore's remaining strength of schedule ranks No. 27, which is the sixth easiest in the league.

The Ravens' biggest remaining challenges are Sunday's home game against the Bengals and road trips to Atlanta (4-5), Kansas City (9-1) and the Los Angeles Chargers (7-2). But Baltimore also has home games left with the Oakland Raiders (1-8), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) and Cleveland Browns (3-6-1).

Many of the players believe the Ravens have to win six of the last seven games to end their three-year playoff drought.

"This team has been through adversity, and this team knows what it's like to go through that," left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. "We're not going to be surprised that we have a hard second half of the season. We'll be ready for it."