The AFC North is off the table for the Ravens.
After losing to the Texans 25-13, the Ravens will need some help if they're to continue their season past next week. No one expected Houston to dominate a Ravens offense that's been as consistent as its ever been all season long. Nothing could get going offensively, and now things are out of Baltimore's control.
Of course, the Ravens have to win to make the playoffs. A loss to Cleveland next Sunday means they're out. Before Sunday's game, I didn't think there was much of a chance for the Ravens to lose to Houston and Cleveland. Now, it's almost as if anything can happen. It's not like Case Keenum had a good game — he had 185 yards on 42 pass attempts. But he only threw one interception and didn't make any additional mistakes. Could Cleveland somehow pose a similar challenge?
The good news Baltimore has is that the help it needs is simple. With how the rest of the NFL turned out Sunday, the Ravens only need one other game to go a certain way. And that's for the Chiefs to beat the Chargers — a game that could definitely happen in the Ravens' favor.
The Chiefs need a win and some help of their own to get in — a Ravens loss and a Texans loss. The Chargers are in with a win. Both teams will bring their A-game. Baltimore needs to hope Kansas City's is better.
One other scenario exists on the Ravens side of things and involves Monday night's game. The Ravens will need to hope Denver beats Cincinnati to drop the Bengals to 9-5-1. Then — in incredible fashion — the Ravens would have to hope the Steelers beat the Bengals next week to win the AFC North, dropping the Bengals to 9-6-1. A Ravens win over the Browns would make them 10-6 and jump them ahead of Cincinnati. That still has to work itself out. As of now, the most clear-cut way is for the Ravens and Chiefs to both win in Week 17.
It is unfortunate the Ravens are in this position. Sunday's loss was one of the worst in recent memory. It came at the most inopportune time and in the most frustrating fashion. But that's the NFL sometimes. Bad games and poor performances from players that otherwise having great seasons can happen.
For the Ravens, that loss puts them in a position to be huge Kansas City fans next week. If next week doesn't work out, the Ravens are suddenly in a position to prepare for the NFL draft much earlier than they'd become used to.