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Baltimore Ravens Week 12 rooting guide: Best outcomes for AFC playoff race

The Ravens are in the drivers seat

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last week the Ravens leapt into the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Now, at 8-3, they hope to keep it by winning on Sunday Night Football against the Los Angeles Chargers. But to keep the No. 1 seed, they also need some of their close AFC counterparts to stumble, as they don’t boast the best tiebreakers right now and next week they’ll be on a bye week, giving the AFC a chance to jump back into the top spot.

Current AFC playoff standings

  1. Miami Dolphins 8-3
  2. Baltimore Ravens 8-3
  3. Kansas City Chiefs 7-3
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars 6-3
  5. Cleveland Browns 6-3
  6. Houston Texans 6-3
  7. Pittsburgh Steelers 6-3

Most Important Games

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) @ Cincinnati Bengals (5-5) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS

Root for: Bengals

The Steelers stumbled against the Browns last week and as a result, they ridded themselves of the goofy cowboy-hat wearing Matt Canada. This helped to give the Ravens some breathing room in the division. Now, it would greatly benefit the Ravens if the Joe Burrow-less Bengals could knock down the Steelers another peg, as the Bengals don’t pose a threat to the Ravens without Burrow and they swept the Bengals, meaning if they were to make a surge for the division crown, they’d have to outright beat the Ravens in the win/loss column.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) @ Las Vegas Raiders (5-6) — 4:25 p.m ET — CBS

Root for: Raiders

A refreshed, bye-week Chiefs still have issues in the second half of games as they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, which vaulted the Ravens into the No. 1 seed. But, they’re far from dead in the water and are headed to Vegas, where it would greatly help the Ravens in their top-seeded quest if they lost two straight, with this one being an AFC loss, too.

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) @ Houston Texans (6-4) — 1 p.m. ET — CBS

Root for: Texans

The Jaguars are narrowly on the Ravens’ heels in the conference, and if they have the same record, the Ravens lose to them in tiebreakers due to the Jaguars 5-2 conference record. But, if the Jaguars lose, they fall to 7-4 and their conference record would be 5-3, tied with the Ravens. Obviously, that won’t matter as much as the Ravens will head to Jacksonville later this season, turning the tiebreaker into a head-to-head situation instead, but it would help to create distance for the Ravens. Especially because they already hold the tiebreaker over Houston with their Week 1 win.

Cleveland Browns (7-3) @ Denver Broncos (5-5) — 4:05 p.m. ET — FOX

Root for: Broncos

The Browns aren’t going away in the division. They could be the team to contend with Baltimore, especially if they keep winning and the Steelers drop yet another. They split the season series, too, and their schedule is easy enough for them to contend for the division crown while the Ravens face a late-season gauntlet. Nothing would be better than a prime Russell Wilson performance to put the Browns down a game. Say it with me, Ravens fans, “Broncos Country, let’s ride.”

Other Games

Buffalo Bills (6-5) @ Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) — 4:25 p.m. ET — CBS

Root for: Eagles

The Bills are trying to right the ship before it’s too late. The Eagles, though, could kick them back down to 6-6, which would all-but-promise them a Wildcard spot with the way the Dolphins are going.

New England Patriots (2-8) @ New York Giants (3-8) — 1 p.m. ET — FOX

Root for: Giants

Always root for NFC over AFC. Also, watching the Patriots be miserable is satisfying, right?

AFC North Standings

If all breaks this way, here’s what the divisional standings look like.

  1. Ravens 9-3
  2. Browns 7-4
  3. Steelers 6-5
  4. Bengals 6-5

A 2-game lead over the Browns heading into the bye week would be huge. It would be highly welcome to not see the AFC North lead relinquished next week to the Browns, especially if it’s the Joe Flacco-led Browns. Ugh.

AFC Playoff Picture

If all results above were to happen

Division Leaders

  1. Ravens 8-3
  2. Dolphins 8-3
  3. Chiefs 7-4 (Wins tie break over Houston based on best win percentage in conference games)
  4. Texans 6-4 (Wins tiebreaker over Jacksonville based on head-to-head win percentage)

Wild Card

5. Browns 7-4 (Wins tiebreaker over Jacksonville based on strength of victory)

6. Jaguars 7-4

7. Broncos 6-5

Ravens face among the hardest schedules left. They need every win they can get and then some. Once they have their bye week, they won’t have the tiebreaker of an extra win on their record anymore. So, they’ll need some teams to stumble if they want to hold onto the No. 1 seed. Their stumbles early in the season left them little breathing room. This is why those Week 3 wins and losses are just as valuable as the late-season wins and losses, too.