The Ravens head to Cincinnati this weekend with a playoff berth still possible with a win (or even with a loss).
There isn’t a question about the Ravens’ desire to win this game and extend their season. It is, unfortunately, a question of motivation of the other teams the Ravens need to win.
There are 4 key games:
Bal @ Cin: Based on 5 international books that are posting now, the Ravens have almost exactly a 30% chance to win. That is a number that divides up the chance to win between odds offered on both teams and eliminates any of the books’ vig. The Ravens are facing a team with everything to play for in terms of seeding. The Bengals could possibly earn a bye or at least hold the 3 seed with a win. The games they care about (Buf @ NE, Jax @ Ind) are both concurrent, so it’s unlikely anything happening in those games will have a strategic impact on the Bengals.
NYJ @ Mia: The Ravens best chance to get the remaining Wild Card is to beat the Bengals while Miami loses. Unfortunately, Miami is at home against the hapless Jets. The Jets are playing for a .500 season and what will likely be Rex Ryan’s last game as head coach. That’s actually as much motivation as you can typically hope for in a week-17 game, but using the same source, the implied win probability for the Jets is only 28%.
KC @ SD: Locked-in playoff teams are the worst source of potential help in week 17. KC travels to SD with literally nothing to play for except a healthy team for the wild card game. The Ravens were in a similar spot as AFC North champs last season. Their week-17 inactive list was: Tandon Doss, Bernard Pollard, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Marshal Yanda, Anquan Boldin, Haloti Ngata. Joe Flacco was replaced early by Tyrod Taylor. I would expect a similar list from the Chiefs with every star with a minor injury taking the day off. There is a mitigating factor, although it isn’t much. The Chargers play at 4 PM and barring losses from both the Ravens and Dolphins, they will be eliminated by game time. Sadly, they will not absolutely know their fate for sure by the time they must turn in their list of inactives at 2:55 EST. In any case, the Chargers will be playing for a winning season and should be a prohibitive favorite. The early line isn’t offered by as many books, but shows the Chiefs with a 17% implied chance to win.
Cle @ Pit: This is a game of truly minimal concern to the Ravens as we’ll see in a moment. I am mildly concerned about the motivation of the Browns’ management, since they are currently in a logjam for the 3rd overall draft selection. That pick, perhaps coupled with another, could be exactly what the franchise needs to secure their quarterback. Then again, the hate for the Steelers is so strong in their fan base, I don’t believe that’s what they’d even want. The international books are giving the Browns a 25% chance in this one.
So those 4 games will determine the Ravens’ Wild Card fate. By now, you know the 3 combinations which get the Ravens in (see below). Assuming independence of the results, I’ll do the simple (and depressing) math:
- Bal W, Mia L: 8.4%
- Bal W, Mia W, SD L: 3.7%
- Bal L, Mia L, SD L, Pit L: 0.8%
Total probability the Ravens get the last Wild Card spot: 12.9%.
Don’t blame me. That’s the betting public putting their money where their mouth is.