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AFC Playoff Picture: The Ravens are in, for now

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NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy what a race this final stretch will become. The Baltimore Ravens are in the driver’s seat, but they sure aren’t enjoying a nice Sunday drive.

The only way for Baltimore to make the playoffs lies with the AFC North crown. Both wildcards are an enormous toss-up as multiple squads already rank higher or the same as the Ravens. Feeling somewhat like old times, it’s going to come down to a slugfest in Pittsburgh, this time, on Christmas Day.

Even then, the Ravens don’t have it easy. They face the red-hot Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Miami is looking like the real deal too. They have won their six last games in a row. Afterwards they go to New England in primetime, battling against Belichick, Brady and the Patriots. Follow this up with a game against the Eagles and wrap up the season on the road to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. This will not be an easy stretch for the Ravens. The talk all year was the backloaded schedule and if Baltimore can rack up eight or nine wins early they could afford to drop two in the final four. With a 6-5 total they need three wins, one being the Steelers. Baltimore’s best chance is the North, and if they can run the table on the division and catch another team off-guard they’ll no doubt be playing post-season football.

Here is the current Playoff Picture, according to behindthesteelcurtain.com

AFC Playoff Picture (Week 12)

1. New England Patriots - 9-2 - Remaining Games: vs. Rams (4-7), vs. Ravens (6-5), atBroncos (7-4), vs. Jets (3-8), at Dolphins (7-4)

2. Oakland Raiders - 9-2 - Remaining Games: vs. Bills (6-5), at Chiefs (8-3), at Chargers(5-6), vs. Colts (5-6), at Broncos (7-4)

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3. Baltimore Ravens - 6-5 - Remaining Games: vs. Dolphins (7-4), at Patriots (9-2), vs.Eagles (5-5), at Steelers (6-5), at Bengals (3-7-1)

6. Miami Dolphins - 7-4 - Remaining Games: at Ravens (6-5), vs. Cardinals (4-6-1), at Jets (3-8), at Bills (6-5), vs. Patriots (9-2)

4. Houston Texans - 6-5 - Remaining Games: at Packers (4-6), at Colts (5-6), vs. Jaguars(2-9), vs. Bengals (3-7-1), at Titans (5-6)

5. Kansas City Chiefs - 8-3 - Remaining Games: at Falcons (7-4), vs. Raiders (9-2), vs. Titans (5-6), vs. Broncos (7-4), at Chargers (5-6)

In the hunt:

7. Denver Broncos - 7-4 - Remaining Games: at Jaguars (2-9), at Titans (5-6), vs. Patriots (9-2), at Chiefs (8-3), vs. Raiders (9-2)

8. Pittsburgh Steelers - 6-5 - Remaining Games: vs. Giants (8-3), at Bills (6-5), at Bengals (3-7-1), vs. Ravens (6-5), vs. Browns (0-12)

9. Buffalo Bills - 6-5 - Remaining Games: at Raiders (9-2), vs. Steelers (6-5), vs. Browns (0-12), vs. Dolphins (7-4), at Jets (3-8)

10. Tennessee Titans - 6-6 - Remaining Games: vs. Broncos (7-4), at Chiefs (8-3), at Jaguars (2-9), vs. Texans (6-5)

11. Indianapolis Colts - 5-6 - Remaining Games: at Jets (3-8), vs. Texans (6-5), at Vikings (6-5), at Raiders (9-2), vs. Jaguars (2-9)

12. San Diego Chargers - 5-6 - Remaining Games: vs. Buccaneers (6-5), at Panthers (4-7), vs. Raiders (9-2), at Browns (0-12), vs. Chiefs (8-3)