Tiebreaker Fever-Ravens Status as of 12/11/09

Filmstudy Tiebreaker Fever-Ravens Status as of 12/11/09

Posted in Filmstudy
Print this article
Ahhh…there is nothing like a short week with two Pittsburgh losses.  December may be the holiday season to everyone else, but to NFL fans, it is the season of schadenfreude.

The Ravens still require some help, but their chances to make the show with either a 10-6 or 9-7 record increased substantially with Pittsburgh’s loss at Cleveland.  While they require some help to make the playoffs, there are now several plausible scenarios that will result in a wild card.

Were the playoffs to start today, the Ravens would be out with Denver (8-4) and Jacksonville (7-5, 6-2 in conference) taking the last 2 spots.  Division leaders Indianapolis and Cincinnati have clinched and are close, respectively.  The complete conference standings can be found here:



First, let’s talk about some of the important tiebreakers vs. individual teams:

Broncos and Chargers: Won Head to Head (HTH) vs. both teams
Bengals and Patriots:  Lost HTH, so must beat them outright
Steelers:  The Ravens won the first meeting with the Steelers, so they now cannot lose the HTH tiebreaker, but the Steelers can knot that one up with a win at Pittsburgh.  The Ravens (3-2 in division) have already clinched the division record tiebreaker, however (Steelers 1-4 in division).  An important component of 3+ way ties is that divisional tiebreakers are resolved first to have a single representative from each applicable division.  This fact means the Steelers can’t be bailed out by a 3-way tie that includes a team from another division.

Conference Tiebreakers for Wild Card vs. teams the Ravens did not face HTH (All of these assume the Ravens finish 10-6, which means they win their remaining 4 games and finish with a conference record of 8-4):

Jaguars: 7-5 (6-2) with 4 remaining conference games:  Mia, Ind, @NE, @ Cle.  The Ravens cannot win the Conference TB vs. the Jaguars at 10-6, because Jacksonville will finish with a conference record of 9-3.  However, Jacksonville has a tough schedule and the Ravens can hope the Jaguars lose at least 2 of their last 4 games to finish no better than 9-7.
Dolphins:  6-6 (4-4) with 4 remaining conference games:  @Jax, @Ten, Hou, Pit.  If the Ravens finish 10-6, the Conference TB vs. the Dolphins will be tied if the Dolphins also run the table.  Were that to occur, the Ravens would beat the Steelers and win the common opponent tiebreaker versus the Dolphins.  The complication regarding the Dolphins occurs if they win the East and NE finishes in a tie with the Ravens (see below).

Jets:  6-6 (5-5) with 2 remaining conference games:  @ Ind, Cin.  The Ravens will win the conference tiebreaker vs. the Jets @ 10-6 (8-4 to 7-5).

Patriots:  7-5 (5-4) with 3 remaining conference games:  @Buf, Jax, @Hou.  The Ravens will lose by HTH if they finish in a 2-way tie with the Patriots, so they would much rather have NE win the East.  The Patriots and Dolphins are tied HTH and will be tied in the division if NE wins at Buffalo on 12/20.  If both teams finish 10-6 with the aforementioned NE win at Buffalo, the common opponent tiebreaker would be invoked and Miami has already clinched that against NE.  So the Ravens need NE to win as many or more games as Miami down the stretch.  There are a number of possible 3-way ties involving the Ravens, so we’ll leave that for another week or 2.

Broncos (used only in the event of a 3+ way tie with entrants from 3 separate divisions):  8-4 (6-3) with 3 remaining:
Chargers (used only in the event of a 3+ way tie with entrants from 3 separate divisions):  9-3 (7-3) with 2 remaining:

Putting the pieces together…let’s look first at the Ravens chance to make the playoffs should they sweep their remaining games and finish 10-6.  In that case, the Ravens will win a Wild Card if the Patriots win the AFC East and either of the following occurs: 

  • The Jaguars lose any 2 games (outright 9-7).  The Ravens will lose the conference tiebreaker with the Jaguars at 10-6 because the Jaguars will be 9-3 in conference.
  • The Broncos lose any 2 games (Ravens win by virtue of HTH) OR the Chargers lose any 3 games (Ravens win by virtue of HTH).  It is possible, although unlikely, that the Ravens could be left out if involved in a 3-way tie with one of these teams involved.
The Ravens have already clinched tiebreakers with the 2 teams (Dolphins, Jets) other than the Patriots who can tie them for the Wild Card at 10-6.  If the Patriots do not win the AFC East, the Ravens will need New England to lose 2 more games to win outright.  It is also possible that the Ravens can win a 3-way tie with the Patriots and a team from either the AFC West or South at 10-6.


The Ravens chance to make the playoffs at 9-7 has now increased significantly.  Under that scenario, the Ravens would win 3 of their last 4 and finish with a conference record of either 8-4 or 7-5.  The Ravens would then need the Patriots to win the AFC East and 4 of the following 5 to occur:

  • The Dolphins would be eliminated if they win 1 of their remaining games and the Ravens lone loss comes to an NFC team (conference 8-4 to 7-5) OR if the Ravens loss does not come to Pit while Miami beats them the following week (Ravens tie for conference and win common opponent) to finish 9-7.  If the Ravens only loss is to Pit and Miami beats them, a tie at 9-7 will be broken by strength of victory, which I will leave for another time.  Alternatively, the Dolphins can lose any 2 games (outright 8-8) 
  • The Jets would be eliminated if either their remaining loss comes to an AFC team or the Ravens remaining loss comes to an NFC team (in either case, the Ravens conference record would be 1 or 2 games better).  The Ravens would lose a common opponent tiebreaker vs. the Jets if required, regardless of record.  Alternatively, the Jets could lose any 2 games (outright 8-8).
  • The Broncos would be eliminated by any 3 losses (HTH) OR the Chargers could lose all 4 remaining games (HTH).
  • The Jaguars would be eliminated with 2 losses occurring to some combination of Indianapolis, New England, and Cleveland (conference tied at 8-4, Ravens win common opponent tiebreaker) if the Ravens lone remaining loss occurs to an NFC team.  If the Ravens end up tied in both the conference and common opponent tiebreakers, the Ravens may win the Strength of Victory tiebreaker vs. the Jags (I have not yet researched).  Alternatively the Jaguars would be eliminated by any 3 losses (outright 8-8).
  • The Patriots would be eliminated by any 3 losses (outright, 8-8).  There are also some scenarios where the Ravens can win a 3-way tie with the Pats at 9-7
No further help is required from the Steelers, Titans, or Texans, none of whom can win a tiebreaker against the Ravens at 9-7.   The Ravens can’t win the division with a 9-7 record, since the Bengals have won the HTH.

There are now 16 NFC teams and 9 AFC teams whose success will not hinder the Ravens provided it does not come against them directly and the Ravens can win at least 3 of their remaining 4 games.  In the AFC, those include:

  • Indianapolis
  • Cincinnati
  • New England
  • Pittsburgh
  • Tennessee
  • Houston
  • Oakland
  • Kansas City
  • Cleveland
The important games (Ravens’ desired winner in bold) not involving the Ravens for the remainder of the season are:

  • 12/13 Den @ Ind (5)
  • 12/13 Car @ NE (3)
  • 12/13 Mia @ Jax (3)
  • 12/13 SD @ Dal (1)
  • 12/13 NYJ @ TB (3)
  • 12/17 Ind @ Jax (5)
  • 12/20 NE @ Buf (5)
  • 12/20 Mia @ Ten (4)
  • 12/20 Atl @ NYJ (3)
  • 12/20 Oak @ Den (5)
  • 12/20 Cin @ SD (1)
  • 12/26 SD @ Ten (1)
  • 12/27 Hou @ Mia (4)
  • 12/27 Jax @ NE (5)
  • 12/27 Den @ Phi (5)
  • 12/27 NYJ @ Ind (3)
  • 1/3 Jax @ Cle (5)
  • 1/3 NE* @ Hou (3)
  • 1/3 Cin* @ NYJ (3)
  • 1/3 Pit* @ Mia (4)
  • 1/3 Was @ SD (1)
  • 1/3 KC @ Den (5)


The number in parenthesis is a qualitative approximation of how important the outcome is to the Ravens making the playoffs (higher number indicates greater importance).  One thing to notice from above is that the Colts will play a huge role in getting the Ravens to the playoffs if they can win their games against Denver and Jacksonville.  We are rooting for NE each week to avoid the possibility that they lose the AFC East.  We are rooting for SD to lose at least 3 games, but once they win 2, we won’t be contending for a playoff spot with them.  The Ravens would like the Jets to lose 1 of their AFC games or both of their NFC games.  


Please email me if you find factual errors here and I’ll correct for the next update.

Facebook Comments
Share This  
Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time.

If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas.

He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens.

More from Ken McKusick


Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

Get More Information