ONE DIVISION, THREE PLAYOFF TEAMS?
The AFC North sends three teams to the playoffs in 58.8 percent of simulations.
With the expanded playoff field featuring three wild-card teams in each conference, it’s now technically possible for one division to send all four of its teams to a postseason. But that won’t be happening this season. How about three teams? The AFC North has a good chance of accomplishing this feat.
The Steelers have already clinched a postseason bid, while the Browns make the playoffs in 83.9 percent of simulations and the Ravens in 77.9. Those individual percentages blend in the ways wins and losses do, giving us that 58.8 figure above.
But the Miami Dolphins could throw a wrench into the works. Miami, which currently owns the conference-record tiebreaker over Baltimore (6-4 vs. 6-5), makes the playoffs in 50 percent of simulations. The Dolphins visit Las Vegas on Saturday night. Who is the Dolphins’ opponent in Week 17? Buffalo, which could be in a position to rest starters by then.
Ravens, Lamar Jackson Looking to ‘Finish’ the Season Strong - Todd Karpovich
Ravens Lamar Jackson wore a shirt emblazoned with the word “Finish” when he met with the media this week.
“There were certain times throughout this year [that] we would go into a game, [and] we’ll be winning the game in the first half,” he said about the shirt. “And then, some way, [in the] second half, we just hit a hump and we wouldn’t finish. We would just end up losing the game somehow.
“And Coach [John Harbaugh] was talking to us a lot about that, and they came up with the shirts. It’s about finishing for us right now. [If] we go into the game hot, we finish hot until the game clock says 0:00, and us with the most points. And that’s just what it is for us right now.”
Since 2018, Baltimore is 12-2 in the month of December, the best mark in the NFL. The Ravens have outscored their opponents 398 to 261 over that stretch, averaging 210.2 yards rushing per game.
Baltimore is heavily benefiting from its schedule right now. To make the playoffs, the Ravens need to finish 2-0 and have the Dolphins lose at least one of their next two games. The Ravens should certainly be able to do their part, as they play the Giants and Bengals in the next two weeks. The Bengals may not be a cakewalk after beating the Steelers, but Baltimore’s schedule is easier than Miami’s (the Dolphins finish the season against the Raiders and Bills).
The Giants, meanwhile, are pretty much out of the NFC East race if they lose this game. This week, head coach Joe Judge said winning the division isn’t what the team’s been focusing on.
“There may be a time that we talk about [winning the division] in the future, possibly, based on what the situation is,” Judge told ESPN. “That being said, it’s always been my belief to keep focused on what you’re doing right now. We can’t do anything about Dallas [in Week 17] right now. That’s a week away. We can only control Baltimore. Anything that may or may not come after that doesn’t even exist yet. Wasting mental energy and focus on something that doesn’t exist, to me, is just wasted time.”
Ravens vs. Giants scouting report for Week 16: Who has the edge? - Childs Walker
GIANTS RUSH DEFENSE: This is the Giants’ strength. They have a pair of run-stuffing monsters up front in 342-pound defensive end Dexter Lawrence and 302-pound defensive tackle Leonard Williams and one of the league’s most productive middle linebackers in Blake Martinez (128 tackles, eight for loss). They struggled to stop Murray and the Cardinals in a Week 14 loss, so that might bode poorly for their matchup with Jackson. But the Giants rank seventh in run defense and have held opponents to 3.9 yards per carry.
GIANTS PASS DEFENSE: Lawrence and Williams (8½ sacks, 24 quarterback hits) are good in any situation, but the Giants have been more vulnerable against the pass than the run. Their best cornerback, James Bradberry, was on the reserve/COVID-19 list for the Browns game and without him, the Giants had little answer for Baker Mayfield (27 of 32, 297 yards, two touchdowns). None of the team’s other cornerbacks have covered well this season. The Giants rank 19th in blitz percentage, according to Pro Football Reference, but their pass-rush production has been above-average, a testament to the talent on their defensive front.
PREDICTION: The Ravens won’t move the ball as easily against a talented Giants defensive front as they did against the Jaguars. But the Giants don’t convert on third down, and they don’t finish drives in the end zone. So they won’t keep up with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens, who know they must win out to have a good chance at the postseason. Ravens 30, Giants 13.
NFL picks, predictions for Week 16: Packers top Titans in thriller; Colts upset Steelers; Dolphins ruin Raiders - Bill Bender
New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens (-10)
Lamar Jackson has his mojo back, and the Ravens reignited their season with two straight victories. That continues against New York, which averages 10 points per game the last three week. That’s not going to cut it on the road.
Pick: Ravens 31, Giants 16