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Ravens seek to remain playoff-bound in matchup with Colts

December 21, 2017

FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2017, file photo, Baltimore Ravens free safety Eric Weddle, left, celebrates with teammate Tony Jefferson after running back an interception for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Baltimore. The formula for the Ravens to gain entry into the postseason is simple: win their final two games. Step 1 in that process is to defeat struggling Indianapolis at home Saturday. Until that happens, claim the Ravens, they won’t be thinking about the finale against visiting Cincinnati. “Everyone has blinders on,” Weddle said. “We're just focused on us and our opponent. All we can control is the Colts, and we'll worry about everything else after that.” (AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)

BALTIMORE (AP) — The formula for the Baltimore Ravens to gain entry into the postseason is simple: win their final two games.

Step 1 in that process is to defeat struggling Indianapolis (3-11) at home Saturday. Until that happens, claim the Ravens, they won’t be thinking about the finale against visiting Cincinnati.

“Everyone has blinders on,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We’re just focused on us and our opponent. All we can control is the Colts, and we’ll worry about everything else after that.”

A year ago, the Ravens also had to win their last two to get into the playoffs. Both those games were on the road, and a loss in Pittsburgh dropped Baltimore out of the running.

This time, the Ravens (8-6) are counting on home-field advantage to end their two-year postseason drought. They’re 58-20 on their own field under coach John Harbaugh, who took over in 2008.

“We’re ecstatic to be at home for the last two weeks,” Weddle said. “It’s a great opportunity to go out and play in front our fans, get the energy from them late in the season. It favors us, and we’ve got to take advantage of it.”

The Ravens used a 4-1 streak to put themselves in this enviable position. They took care of business last week, beating winless Cleveland 27-10 , and now they face another struggling team with a raw quarterback.

Playing in place of the injured Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett has thrown seven interceptions, lost three fumbles and been sacked 49 times. On Saturday, he will face a Baltimore defense that has three shutouts and leads the NFL with 33 takeaways.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano, a former assistant in Baltimore, believes Brissett can handle the challenge.

“He is able to grasp more and more every week and is more comfortable, obviously, today than a month ago with his surroundings and his personnel,” Pagano said. “He is making great decisions, he is taking care of the football, and he is managing things for us well.”

Brissett has thrown only three interceptions over the past six games, but the injury-riddled Colts have lost five straight and eight of nine.

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Some things to know about the matchup between Baltimore’s former NFL team, the Colts, and its current tenant, the Ravens:

SPOILER ROLE: Indianapolis has no hopes of reaching the postseason, but it can have a say about who does. Pagano, however, isn’t as interested in derailing the Ravens as he is in seeing the Colts get a long-awaited victory.

“I’d love to be able to find a way to get a win,” he said. “Not so much to knock somebody out and be a spoiler; just to see the fruits of your labor come to fruition. The reason we sacrifice and do what we do is for those five minutes. It’s those five minutes in the locker room when you come off the field victorious and you have that moment to share.”

The Colts haven’t had that feeling since Nov. 5, when they beat Houston 20-14.

GETTING OFFENSIVE: The Ravens sputtered offensively for the first seven weeks of the season, but over their past seven games they’re averaging 30.7 points per game.

Quarterback Joe Flacco has thrown for nine TDs with just four interceptions over that span, and last week he passed for a season-high 288 yards. As the season winds down, the Baltimore offense is revving up.

“There is no doubt,” Flacco said. “You can definitely tell when we are on the field that we are a confident group and we are playing together and having a lot of fun. All of that stuff helps and goes a long way.”

HOMECOMING: Pagano got his job with the Colts after spending four years with the Ravens as secondary coach and defensive coordinator under Harbaugh.

“Nothing but fond memories, obviously,” Pagano said. “Me and my family loved it there. We had a great experience and are forever grateful to coach Harbaugh for giving me the opportunity to be on his first staff back in 2008. I certainly would not be where I am at today without that opportunity.”

DIFFERENCE MAKER: The Ravens are in position to make the playoffs because of a plus-17 turnover differential that is tops in the NFL. The defense has five TDs, and the team has scored 118 points off turnovers.

“You know the advantage of creating turnovers, what a difference it can make for your team and the momentum it can create,” Weddle said. “At any point, we can change a game — and offenses know it.”

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