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AFC North Race Is Over

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Even though there are still five games left in the season, the race for the division title in the AFC North is essentially already over.

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The Baltimore Ravens have a three-game lead in the AFC North with five games left to play in the regular season. While the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are still mathematically in the race, those two teams are focusing on making the post season through the Wild Card race more than their own division.

Despite having games remaining with both the Steelers (this weekend) and the Bengals (week 17), Baltimore would have to lose four of the five games while either Pittsburgh or Cincinnati would have to sweep the rest of their schedule in order to claim the division title. Baltimore remains perfect in the AFC North (4-0) after going undefeated in the division last year. The Steelers (1-2) and Bengals (1-3) both actually have a worse division record than the Cleveland Browns (2-3).

The Ravens can legitimately clinch the division crown for the second year in a row with a win over the Steelers and a Bengals loss to the San Diego Chargers this weekend. However, while head coach John Harbaugh will say they are only looking at the coming week's opponent, the Ravens eyes are on the playoffs and doing whatever they can to earn the #1 seed.

They will need help for that, as the 10-1 Houston Texans are not only a game ahead of the Ravens in that race but also own the tie-breaker over them by virtue of their 44-13 pounding. The Texans would have to lose one more game than the Ravens in order to get the #1 playoff seed and home field advantage throughout the post season.

In the meantime, the Ravens control their own fate and right now can claim the AFC North and take another step towards at least the #2 seed, a first-round playoff bye and a home game in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. A win over the Steelers this weekend in Baltimore would be a great start.

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