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Wild birds

Ravens miss out on AFC Central title with Titans win

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Posted: Tuesday December 26, 2000 12:37 AM
Updated: Wednesday December 27, 2000 10:25 PM

  Ray Lewis Ray Lewis and the Ravens are settling for the wild card despite a seven-game winning streak to end the regular season. AP

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Ravens had a chance to seize the AFC Central title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage until the Super Bowl.

Instead, after the Tennessee Titans beat Dallas 31-0 on Monday night, Baltimore ended up clutching a wild card.

The Ravens will make their initial foray into the postseason Sunday afternoon at home against the Denver Broncos. It will be the first NFL playoff game in Baltimore since 1977, when the Colts lost to the Oakland Raiders in overtime.

The Ravens (12-4) would have been happy to wait a week, but the Titans claimed the top seed in the AFC by finishing 13-3.

"This might work out well for us because we're in our regular routine," Ravens head coach Brian Billick said. "We'll be doing the same this week we always do. There's something to be said for staying in your routine."

Baltimore enters the playoffs with more momentum than any team in the NFL. The Ravens have won seven in a row, a streak that includes a 24-23 victory at Tennessee on Nov. 12.

That ended the Titans' 12-0 run since beginning play at Adelphia Coliseum and remains their home loss in two seasons. The road to the Super Bowl in the AFC now goes through Tennessee, so a rematch is possible.

The Ravens went 6-2 on the road this season, losing in the muck at Miami and at Washington in October during an aggravating five-game run without a touchdown.

Although Baltimore's record-setting defense is playing well enough, the offense is again sputtering. The Ravens managed only five first downs in Sunday's 34-20 victory against the New York Jets, a win that can be attributed to six New York turnovers and two punt returns for touchdowns by Jermaine Lewis.

Quarterback Trent Dilfer sprained his left wrist in the second quarter Sunday and was going to remain on the bench as a precaution, Billick said. But Dilfer was forced to return when his backup, Tony Banks, separated his left shoulder.

Dilfer, who went 11-for-25 for 99 yards, does not expect to miss any practice this week.

Banks is questionable for Sunday, one more reason why the Ravens could have used a first-round bye.

Related information
Ravens rout Jets 34-20 to finish season at 12-4
Titans rout Cowboys to clinch AFC home field
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan likes his team's position and wants them to focus on making a winning run. (158 K)
Shanahan wants his veterans to lead the way for the younger players. (92 K)
Broncos QB Brian Griese knows he will be a hunted man. (70 K)
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