BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens charged into the postseason with a performance that typified their astonishing turnaround season.
Needing a victory to secure the final AFC wild-card berth, the Ravens built a 17-point halftime lead and never let up in a 27-7 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Baltimore (11-5) could have backed into the postseason if Buffalo beat New England earlier Sunday, but the Patriots' 13-0 victory meant the Ravens lined up for the opening kickoff knowing they had to win to get in.
The playoffs open for Baltimore next Sunday on the road against AFC East champion Miami, but to get there, the Ravens had to adopt a postseason mentality against Jacksonville.
"This wasn't just finishing up the season or a game that was going to get us into the playoffs. This was a playoff game," center Jason Brown said. "That level of intensity, we had to come out full steam ahead. We're not holding back any of our weapons, we're not going to try and keep anybody fresh. We're coming out and giving everything."
After taking a 24-7 lead at halftime, Baltimore kept pressuring the stumbling Jaguars (5-11), who committed four turnovers and were held to a season-low in points.
"We finished up a long, tough year," Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said. "It's not all bad, but it's not good enough to feel good about it. Our job is to get into the postseason and fight for a world championship. We didn't get it done this year."
The Ravens did. And now, they intend to make something of the opportunity.
"We have an opportunity to prove we're the best team in the NFL," coach John Harbaugh said. "That's what we're going to try to do."
A year ago, Baltimore went 5-11 and finished last in the AFC North. They entered this season guided by a first-year coach, and their offense was placed in the hands of a rookie quarterback.
"Nobody gave us a chance," Brown said.
Yet the Ravens reversed their record, finishing the regular season with nine wins in 11 games.
"Back in training camp, we just knew how special this team could be," linebacker Ray Lewis said.
Harbaugh guaranteed Tuesday the Patriots would win, and he was right. Quarterback Joe Flacco guessed the Jaguars would put up a fight for about a quarter, and he was also correct.
And Baltimore is one of only 12 teams with a shot at winning the Super Bowl.
Knowing that anything short of a victory would ruin an otherwise successful season, the Ravens wasted no time getting to work. Flacco completed a 48-yard pass to Mark Clayton on the game's fourth offensive play, setting up a field goal by Matt Stover.
The Ravens then forced a fumble, but that opportunity ended with a Stover misfire from 48 yards, ending his run of 14 straight successful field-goal tries.
Jacksonville took a 7-3 lead on a 23-yard pass from David Garrard to Alvin Pearman, who was signed Thursday to replace injured running back Fred Taylor. It was the first catch of the season for Pearman, drafted by Jacksonville in 2005.
Baltimore answered with a 78-yard drive in which Flacco went 6-for-7 for 69 yards before Le'Ron McClain ran it in from the 5.
On their next possession, the Ravens covered 77 yards and moved ahead 17-7 on a 13-yard run by Willis McGahee. Flacco completed all three of his passes during the drive, hitting Derrick Mason twice for 57 yards and finding Clayton for 8 yards on a third-and-7.
With nothing to play for, the Jaguars could have quit. But they moved to the Baltimore 19 and were poised to at least get within a touchdown when Ed Reed ended the drive with the first of his two interceptions.
Baltimore turned that into another McClain touchdown run and a 17-point halftime lead.
Stover added a 41-yard field goal in the third quarter to complete the scoring. Reed registered his NFL-high ninth interception in the waning minutes; the nine pickoffs tied his own team record.
Flacco went 17-for-23 for 297 yards and no interceptions. McClain, a seldom-used fullback in 2007, ran for 70 yards and finished with a team-high 902 for the season.
While the Ravens looked ahead to the playoffs, the Jaguars staggered into an offseason of uncertainty.
"When you don't win, changes are going to be made," Garrard said. "Hopefully, some of the new people will come in here, and they will make us a better team."
The Ravens finished with an NFL-best 26 interceptions, including 16 over the past eight games. ... Mason went over 10,000 yards receiving for his career. ... Garrard passed for only 127 yards. He needed 147 to tie Mark Brunell for second place on the team's single-season list.