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Late For Work 12/20: 49ers Hoist Ravens Back Atop Division

Watch highlights of the Steelers beating; playoff scenarios; not out of the woods yet…

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Tuesday, December 20th, 2011 at 9:15 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

49ers Hoist Ravens Back Atop Division

  Mom
  Dad
  John
  Joani
     

Jim Harbaugh can cross his brother off his Christmas list.

And I don’t know what John was planning on giving Jim, but he needs to re-think it and go bigger.

That’s because Jim and the San Francisco 49ers didn’t just beat the Steelers Monday night. No, they pummeled the Ravens’ AFC North rival, 20-3.

 

 

Steelers-49ers Highlights

That means both Pittsburgh and Baltimore have a 10-4 record, but the Ravens hold on to the top spot in the division by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Ravens sweeping the Steelers this season.

The Ravens’ stinker in San Diego Sunday night was a significant blow, dropping Baltimore from the AFC No. 1 seed (tied) to No. 5.

But the sting is far less severe now.

The 49ers hoisted the Ravens back atop the AFC North and are they currently the No. 2 seed. If the Ravens can hold on to that spot, they will get a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game.

More Than Regaining Division…

As if regaining the division wasn’t a gift enough.

Ravens fans also got the satisfaction of watching (which you can do again with the video to the right) the Steelers’ offense breakdown more and more each time the relentless 49ers defense hit a hobbled Big Ben Roethlisberger.

“Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed the same kind of success a one-legged man would have in a butt-kicking contest,” wrote FoxSports.com’s Alex Marvez.

Roethlisberger, who played through a high ankle sprain, committed four turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble) and limped to the sideline after each one.

“The Steelers left the Bay Area as a wild-card team with the biggest concern an NFL team can have – the health of its quarterback,” wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley. “That’s the biggest worry in Steeler Nation right now.

“As long as Roethlisberger is hurting, so is the Steelers’ offense.”

Hensley said being the wild-card isn’t such a big deal for Pittsburgh. After all, they’ve won many on the road in the postseason before.

But can they win without a healthy starting quarterback?

“Judging by his performance against the 49ers, a hurt Roethlisberger will have trouble getting the job done against playoff teams and the best defenses in the NFL,” concluded Hensley.

If The Season Ended Today…

No. 1 seed New England (11-3); first-round bye
No. 2 seed Baltimore (10-4); first-round bye
No.6 seed N.Y. Jets (8-6) at No. 3 seed Houston (10-4)
No. 5 seed Pittsburgh (10-4) at No. 4 seed Denver (8-6)

If the season ended today, the Ravens would sit at home watching the wild-card round.

They’d then take on the highest-winning seed in the divisional round, which Houston is currently in line for.

Playoff Scenarios

Prior to the Steelers loss last night, ESPN listed different ways the Ravens can clinch the division and a first-round bye. That list is updated below.

How Ravens can win AFC North…

  • Ravens win last two games
  • Ravens win one of last two games and Steelers lose one of last two games
  • Steelers lose last two games

How Ravens clinch a first-round bye this week…

  • Ravens win Saturday (against Cleveland) along with the Steelers losing Saturday (against St. Louis) and the Texans losing Thursday (at Indianapolis).

How Ravens can win No. 1 seed (per MASN’s Dan Kolko)…

The Ravens win out along with the Patriots losing one of their final two games (vs. Dolphins, Bills), and the Texans losing at least one game of their final games (@Colts, vs. Titans). If the Ravens, Pats and Texans end with the same record, Houston will win the tiebreaker over New England and Baltimore based on best win percentage in conference games.

Not Out Of The Woods Yet

Now that we’ve gotten all the celebrating out of our system, it’s time to get back to business.

The Ravens aren’t out of the woods yet.

They still host the 4-10 Cleveland Browns on Christmas Eve and then travel to Cincinnati on New Year’s Day for the season finale against the 8-6 Bengals, who will be battling for a wild-card spot.

“As we have learned, nothing is guaranteed when these Ravens hit the road,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Matt Vensel.

The Ravens’ Achilles heel this season has been winning on the road, where they are 3-4. So if the Ravens are able to beat the Browns Saturday, a big question will be whether Baltimore can pull out a major win in Cincy.

To do it and hold onto the division lead, Vensel says the Ravens have a “few major concerns to address, ones that resurfaced in a humbling loss in San Diego.”

He cited three: 1) the disappearing pass rush, 2) the suddenly-vulnerable secondary and 3) the inconsistent pass attack.

What are your top three concerns you think the Ravens need to address heading down the final stretch?

Quick Hits

  • TorreySmithWR: Good morning y’all…it’s not to often that you get a second chance at anything!! We gotta take advantage of the situation #nobs [Twitter]
  • Redding93: GOD BLESS THE 49′ers!!! [Twitter]
  • brendon310: RAVENS 1st PLACE AFC NORTH! HOME PLAY OFF GAME AND 1st ROUND BYE WHEN WE WIN OUT! [Twitter]
  • RayRice27: I ain’t going to sleep until this game is over [Twitter]
  • RayRice27: Goodnight I changed my mind #Ravens [Twitter]
  • 1WinningDrive: Three of the Steelers’ four losses this year have come against the Harbaughs. #Ravens [Twitter]
  • Browns quarterback Colt McCoy has not yet been cleared to play after sustaining a concussion against the Steelers Dec. 8. His status against the Ravens is unclear. [ESPN]
  • Many of you have complained on The Flock message boards about John Harbaugh not using his three timeouts at the end of the half in San Deigo to give his offense more time to try to score before the break. Harbaugh was asked about that yesterday, and essentially said mea culpa. [BaltimoreRavens.com/CSNBaltimore.com]
  • Hensley gave a “thumbs down” to the decision to suit up linebacker Ray Lewis for the Chargers game. “The Ravens linebacker said his toe was 95 percent after the game but you could tell he wasn’t the same on the field. Lewis seemed a step slow and missed tackles that normally are routine. The Ravens either need to limit his snaps the rest of the way or think about sitting him until the toe is actually better (but time is running out).” [ESPN]
  • As bad as Matt Birk and the Ravens must have felt after Sunday night’s 34-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers, it was nothing but joy today for the veteran center who welcomed his sixth child, a boy, to the family. [The Baltimore Sun]

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