Image courtesy of ESPN’s Playoff Machine
The Ravens’ playoff picture became a lot clearer with the results of week 14. It’s simple because the Ravens win virtually no tiebreakers except the head-to-head with Miami.
The Ravens paths to the playoffs can be most easily delineated by finishing record.
If the Ravens win out to finish 11-5
[RELATED: Ravens Playoff Scenarios at 11-5]
They are guaranteed no worse than a Wild Card.
They will win the division if Cincinnati and Pittsburgh each lose 1 or more games.
If the Ravens win 2 of their remaining 3 to finish 10-6
They will win the AFC North if both:
- The Ravens beat the Browns as one of their wins or Cleveland loses at least 1 other game; and
- Pittsburgh and Cincinnati each lose 2 games. That means the two teams will need to lose at least 3 of the 4 games they don’t play against each other, which seems unlikely.
They will win a Wild Card if at least 5 of the following 7 things occur:
- Buffalo loses at least 1 game (GB, @Oak, @NE) or Miami wins out (@NE, Min, NYJ)
- Houston loses at least 1 game (@Ind, Bal, Jax) or Indianapolis loses their last 3 (Hou, @Dal, @Ten)
- Kansas City loses at least 1 game (Oak, @Pit, SD)
- San Diego loses at least 2 games (Den, @ SF, @KC)
- Cincinnati loses at least 2 games (@Cle, Den, @Pit)
- Pittsburgh loses at least 2 games (@Atl, KC, Cin)
- Cleveland loses at least 1 game (Cin, @Car, @Bal)
The 1 unlikely combination which would foil the above formula would be if Pittsburgh were to lose the division at 10-6 with Miami winning out. Pittsburgh would be ranked ahead of the Ravens and lose a tiebreaker to the Dolphins based on common opponents, and the Steelers (or another team) would then be awarded the 2nd wild card.
It is technically possible for the Ravens to win a Wild Card at 9-7, but so unlikely we won’t consider now.
If you are concerned about seeding, the Ravens have lost the head-to-head tiebreaker against Indianapolis and they can’t win a tiebreaker with any finishing record against Denver or New England.
One thing the Ravens would like to avoid is reliance on any outside help in week 17. The clinched division winners (or good teams who are out of contention) will often roll over if a bye or top seeding is not at stake or the team is out of playoff contention. The key games in question would be [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected]
For week 15, most of Baltimore fans’ rooting interests are clear:
- Atl over Pit
- GB over Buf
- Ind over Hou
- Oak over KC
- NE over Mia
- Den over SD
- Bal over Jax (of course)
The Cin/Cle game is the only matchup where it’s not clear what outcome the Ravens want. A win for Cleveland may turn the week 17 Bal/Cle matchup into a playoff game, but may otherwise enhance the Ravens’ chance to win the division. A win for Cincinnati will all but eliminate the Browns, but will make it more difficult to catch both the Bengals and Steelers.
Happy scoreboard watching.