Ravens fans should have their eyes glued on three games this week.
If these three contests go Baltimore's way, then the Ravens are guaranteed a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive season. The first is the obvious one — the game the Ravens play against the Patriots. The Ravens must take care of business and defeat New England at home in front of the M&T Bank Stadium fans.
If the Ravens win, these two scenarios then must play out:
1) The Bills need to defeat the Dolphins. Miami has the same record (8-6) as Baltimore, though the Ravens hold the tiebreaker due to a head-to-head win earlier this season. If the Dolphins falter and the Ravens win, then Baltimore will hold a tiebreaker advantage over Miami no matter what happens in Week 17.
2) The Raiders need to either upset the Chargers or force a tie. If San Diego loses, they'll have eight defeats for the season. If Baltimore wins, there's no chance for the Ravens to end the season with eight losses. If San Diego ties and the Ravens win, the two teams could wind up with the same amount of losses (seven) after Week 17. But the Ravens would have one more win to give them an advantage.
Of course, winning an AFC North championship is still a possibility. If Baltimore wins out, it doesn't matter what the rest of the league does. The Ravens would then earn an automatic berth to the playoffs and a top-four seed.
AFC playoff standings:
1. Denver Broncos (11-3) — clinched playoff berth
2. New England Patriots (10-4)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)
4. Indianapolis Colts (9-5) — clinched AFC South title
5. Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) — clinched playoff berth
6. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
(Playoff hopes still alive)
7. Miami Dolphins (8-6)
8. San Diego Chargers (7-7)
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-8)
10. New York Jets (6-8)
11. Tennessee Titans (5-9)
12. Buffalo Bills (5-9)
13. Oakland Raiders (4-10)
14. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10)
15. Cleveland Browns (4-10)
16. Houston Texans (2-12)