The Baltimore Ravens are in control of their own destiny, the hope is they will win out these next 2 weeks. The crucial Christmas day showdown with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers will likely be the deciding factor in who wins the division, barring a win from one team and subsequent week 17 loss.
The loser of Week 16 will be in the mix for the last wild card spot, with the first one locked down by the Kansas City Chiefs, assuming they can’t catch the Oakland Raiders. With a record of 8-7 going into week 17, the best record the loser of the showdown can hope for is 9-7. The Ravens would need several things to go their way in order to be able to secure a Wild Card spot at 9-7.
Without further ado, here is the next two weeks schedules with whom to root for:
New England Patriots (12-2): vs. Jets, @Miami
Verdict: They need to beat Miami for the Ravens to have a chance.
Oakland Raiders (11-3): vs. Ind, @Den
Verdict: Oakland MUST win against the Colts (unless the Pats lose to the Jets), in order for the Patriots to have incentive to play their starters against Miami in week 17. They also might need to win against Denver in order for the Ravens to have a chance to grab a Wild Card.
Kansas City Chiefs (10-4): vs. Den, @SD
Verdict: Beating Denver is important if the Ravens want a wild card, but the San Diego game is irrelevant for their playoff chances.
AFC South Contenders:
Tennessee Titans (8-6): @Jax, vs. Hou
Houston Texans (8-6): vs. Cin, @Ten
Indianapolis Colts (7-7): @Oak, vs. Jax
Verdict: With one of these teams slated to win the division, the loser of the Houston at Tennessee game in week 17 will be 9-7 or worse. With the Ravens holding the tie breakers over all 3 teams, none of these teams would matter in the Ravens quest for a Wild Card spot should they lose to the Steelers.
Miami Dolphins (9-5): @Buf, vs. NE
Verdict: Miami must lose both for the Ravens to have a shot at the Wild Card. Thankfully, both opponents are formidable.
Denver Broncos (8-6): @KC, vs. Oak
Verdict: It is very simple: the Broncos can’t win more games then the Ravens going forward. If the Ravens lose to Pittsburgh, then the Broncos must drop one of these matchups to remain tied with the Ravens. With two dominant teams, it is a difficult path for a Denver team which has been sliding of late.
Tiebreakers with 2 teams:
The Ravens hold the tiebreakers with all the other teams: Miami and Buffalo, based on the Ravens head to head wins; and all the AFC South teams plus Denver based on Conference Record. The Ravens at 7-3 in the conference hold at least a 2 game lead on all these teams in conference record, except for Houston at 6-4. But since the Texans and Ravens currently have the same record, they would need to win or lose the same amount of conference games going forward in order to end up tied in overall record, which would mean the Ravens would retain their 1 game lead in conference record.
Tiebreakers with 3 teams or more:
Here is where it gets slightly more complicated. Since we know the Ravens hold the Head to Head or Conference record tie breaker on all teams, there was no reason to list any of the other tie breakers. Per the NFL.com tie breaking procedures:
The first tie breaker is not applicable for the Ravens, since it would require another AFC North team to be in the Wild Card mix. But it could apply to both the AFC East and South if there ends up being a tie for second place.
Either way, it would seem that the Ravens are in great shape in the area of tie breakers for the 6th seed, should they lose to Pittsburgh this Sunday.
Ranking the remaining non-Ravens games in order of importance for the Ravens:
- Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (Week 16): For the Ravens to be in the running for a Wild Card spot, they need to be within a game of the Dolphins going into week 17. If Miami wins and the Ravens fell to the Steelers, that would eliminate the Ravens from Wild Card contention.
- Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders (Week 16): If the Raiders lose to the Colts, not only will it add another team into the Wild Card mix, but it will give New England incentive to rest its starters in week 17 with a #1 seed sewn up. Even if Miami were to lose against the Bills, a win versus New England would lock up the last playoff spot.
- New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (Week 17): See #2 above. Ravens need the Dolphins to lose both their final games if they want to be able to grab the 2nd Wild Card spot.
- Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (Week 16) OR Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (Week 17): See above.
Other then these 4 games, the rest of the matchups are essentially irrelevant for the Ravens Wild Card chances (barring a tie between Houston and Tennessee in week 17). They may have playoff implications, but not for the Ravens. Oakland, Jacksonville, and Cincinnati could all play important roles as spoilers. We are in for an action packed and exciting final 2 weeks.
Summary: 3 Steps to a Wild Card spot
- Beat Cincinnati
- Dolphins lose both games
- Denver loses at least 1 game
Bonus Steelers Wild Card:
Should the Ravens prevail on Christmas day, the Steelers would need Miami to lose both games to grab a Wild Card berth. Miami holds the head-to-head tie breaker. However, in a 3-way tie with Miami and another team, the Steelers would prevail. They sport the same 7-3 Conference Record as the Ravens.