The Ravens have played well in the 1st half and have earned the right to discuss possible playoff chances. I have seen a number of folks who seem to think the Ravens have a shot to win the division merely by beating Pittsburgh on December 14th, but in fact the likelihood of the Ravens winning any tiebreaker against the Steelers is remote. Here’s why:
1st Tiebreaker: Head to head. The best the Ravens can do is tie for this one with a win on December 14th.
2nd Tiebreaker: Divisional record. To win this tiebreaker, the Ravens will need to beat Cincinnati on the road and also beat Pitt in the aforementioned 12/14 game. In addition, the Steelers would need to lose at home to either Cleveland or Cincinnati. It would be wonderful to see one of those teams upset the Steelers, but it’s unlikely. The most likely result, if the Steelers and Ravens are tied at season’s end is that both teams are 5-1 in division. That said, when you look further down the tiebreaker list, this is by far the Ravens best shot to win a tiebreaker vs. the Steelers.
3rd Tiebreaker: Common opponents. Each team in division plays 14 common opponents and 2 “uncommon” opponents. It’s actually easier to see the common opponent tiebreaker by looking at uncommon opponent results. For this tiebreaker to be important, Pitt and Baltimore will need to have the same overall record. The Ravens have already swept Miami and Oakland, the 2 uncommon opponents. At best, the Ravens can force the next tiebreaker here, and only if the Steelers beat both New England and San Diego while the Ravens do not lose ground in the standings. That last sentence contains a very unlikely combination of events.
- The Ravens and Steelers have the same overall record
- The Ravens have beaten Pit on 12/14
- The Ravens and Steelers are both either 4-2 or 5-1 in division. The Steelers must beat either the Browns or Bengals at Heinz, and it is much more likely they have won both, since otherwise this tiebreaker will only need resolution if the Ravens lose at Cincy.
- The Steelers have beaten both New England and San Diego, so the 3rd tiebreaker has failed to determine the division winner
The Pittsburgh/Dallas game is the key to the conference record tiebreaker:
To summarize the entire conference record tiebreaker…the Ravens can’t win it, but they have some remote hope of forcing the 5th tiebreaker.
5th Tiebreaker: Strength of Victory. This is a tiebreaker the Ravens can win, but if you are still following at this point, you know the chance of getting to this tiebreaker requires a very remote string of outcomes.
Please send me an email if you see a logical flaw or component I have not explained in this analysis and I’ll get it corrected/added