Ravens playoff picture: How Baltimore can clinch AFC wild-card spot in Week 18

2 weeks ago 23

Written By Jacob Camenker

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The Ravens began the season 8-3 and looked like the team to beat in the AFC North. However, they have fallen flat during the last five games, all losses, and now face an uphill battle to reach the postseason.

The Bengals wrapped up the AFC North with a win over the Chiefs last week so now, the Ravens' only hope is to get the final AFC Wild Card spot. They will need to win to have a shot at it, but they are relying on many other results to help get them there.

The team is also dealing with numerous injuries. They have lost key playmakers in the secondary, an entire stable of running backs and Lamar Jackson, who has recently dealt with an ankle injury. Baltimore has also dropped a couple of games by one point thanks to failed two-point conversions late, so had they converted even one of them, their chances of making the postseason would be better.

Baltimore remains alive in the playoff race, but they are decidedly long shots. Here's what needs to happen for the Ravens to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

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1. The Ravens must beat the Steelers

Obviously, the Ravens need to win to make the playoffs. After all, they are 8-8 and are behind several teams in the AFC Wild Card race. That includes the team they're playing, the Steelers, who sport an 8-7-1 record.

The Ravens lost by one point to Pittsburgh earlier in the season after Lamar Jackson failed to connect with Mark Andrews on a potential game-winning two-point conversion. They will be out for revenge in this one. If they can win the 1 p.m. ET game, they may have a chance to stay in the AFC playoff race at least a little while longer, though they'll need some help to leapfrog into the final Wild Card spot. 

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2. The Chargers and Colts must both lose

The second element of this equation for the Ravens is to create a three-way tie with the Chargers and Colts for the final playoff spot.

The NFL tiebreak rules for three-way ties can get complex, but in this case, they are simple. The Ravens have beaten both the Chargers and Colts head-to-head. As such, they have completed a "season sweep" of the two, and that would catapult them ahead of both and lock them into that No. 7 seed for the postseason.

Of course, that may prove easier said than done. The Chargers are slight favorites over the Raiders, so perhaps they could lose, but the Colts are 15.5-point favorites over the Jaguars. Indianapolis hasn't won in Jacksonville since 2014, so history may be on the Ravens' side there, but the 2021 Jaguars have won just two games and are on an eight-game losing streak. Still, it's at least possible.

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3. The Dolphins must lose or tie against the Patriots

This is the final complicating matter for the Ravens. If they can win and see both the Chargers and Colts lose, they won't be guaranteed a playoff spot. They still need the Dolphins not to win against the Patriots.

Why is that? Well, if the Dolphins win, they will have a 9-8 record, which would force a four-way tie for the final playoff spot with the Colts, Chargers, Ravens and Dolphins. The Ravens would no longer own the tiebreak, as they lost head-to-head against Miami so they don't maintain the "season sweep" over all three teams. Instead, the Colts, who would own the superior conference record at 7-5, would make it in.

Long story short, the Ravens can make the playoffs. It just might be difficult for them to actually do so, as three other teams are in control of their destiny.

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