It’s wide open in the AFC, Week 16
Earlier in the year, with six games remaining, I mentioned that the Ravens needed to split their remaining season up into two, three game sets. 3-0 in the first set and 2-1 in the second set should be good enough to make the playoffs. Well part one, mission accomplished. Part two, the Ravens are on their way. Meet LEGatron. Justin Tucker single handedly beat the Lions as he accounted for all of the Ravens 18 points, in an 18-16 win on Monday night football in Detroit. The Ravens picked up their second road win of the year. It was ugly, but the Lions are a team fighting for their playoff lives as well. A hard fought battle on both ends where the team who made the fewest mistakes came out ahead. Good teams find a way to win ugly, close games like that by simply limiting mistakes. Baltimore committed zero turnovers versus three for Detroit.
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The Ravens had the luxury of knowing what was on the line entering their matchup last night, as the final game in the week 15 slate. Week 16 is set up the same way. The Ravens are most worried about Cincinnati for the AFC North race, and Miami for the final Wild Card spot. Cincy hosts Minnesota at 1:00, and Miami visits Buffalo at 1:00 as well. The Ravens host the New England Patriots at 4:25, once again knowing what will be on the line. The Chargers are hanging around at 7-7 after an unlikely win in Denver, and will host the Oakland Raiders this week. However, their only chance at making the playoffs would be if the Ravens, and Dolphins both lose in week 16. The best San Diego can do is go 9-7. Should the Ravens or Dolphins finish with nine wins, even the Bengals if they lose out to finish with nine wins, all three hold tie breakers over the Bolts.
So on to week 16. Bengals vs. Vikings, Dolphins @ Bills; Ravens know what they need to do when hosting the Pats in the 4:00 slate. What could happen?
Bengals win, Dolphins win: The Ravens must win. A win keeps them in the AFC North race. For the time being the Bengals would move up to the #2 seed as they own the head to head tie breaker over the Patriots. Also keeps Baltimore in the final WC spot over the Dolphins, who would still have a chance to win the AFC East. A Ravens loss puts Miami back in the final WC spot, and Cincy would win the AFC North. Patriots would wrap up the AFC East and remain the #2 seed. The only way Baltimore can make the playoffs in week 17 would be a Miami loss vs. the Jets, and a Ravens win at the Bengals.
Bengals win, Dolphins lose: The Ravens win and they set up a chance at winning the AFC North in week 17. They also would have a stranglehold on the final WC spot, and would hold onto that spot barring a three-way tie between the Chargers, Dolphins and Ravens at the end of the season. Dolphins own the three-way tie breaker (Conference record). The Ravens lose, they would hold onto the final WC spot, but Miami moves into that spot if the Chargers beat the Raiders at home. Bengals would win the AFC North and the Patriots would win the AFC East. It opens up potentially a five team race for the final WC slot in week 17.
Bengals lose, Dolphins win: The Ravens, win or lose, would play for the AFC North crown in week 17. Win and they still sit in the final WC spot. Lose and Miami takes over the #6 seed, while the Patriots would win the AFC East. If the Ravens lose, it then sets up one of those situations where the Ravens and Bengals could win the division and get a home playoff game, or get nothing at all. Miami holds the head to head tie breaker over Cincy if the Ravens, Bengals, and Dolphins all finish with the same record, as the Ravens would then win the AFC North.
Bengals lose, Dolphins lose: The Ravens, win or lose, would play for the AFC North crown in week 17 and the Patriots would clinch the AFC East. Win and they retain the final WC spot. A loss, coupled with Chargers win, the Dolphins become the #6 seed by way of a three way tie breaker.
Best case scenario: Ravens win, Bengals lose, Dolphins lose. Keep the division on the line, but give yourself a safety net should the Bengals prevail in the season finale.
Worst case scenario: Ravens lose, Bengals win, Dolphins win. You don’t want to win and need help in the final game to advance. Keep controlling your own fate.
It’s pretty simple. Ravens need to keep winning. Long story short, the Patriots game only becomes a “must win” if the Bengals and Dolphins both win their games, which we’ll know the outcomes just before the Ravens kickoff at 4:25. If they keep on winning, how high can the Ravens climb? The #2 seed and a playoff bye are still in the cards. Here’s how.
Ravens win out to go 10-6 (vs. NE, @ CIN). Patriots lose out to go 10-6 (@BAL, vs. BUF). Ravens own the H2H tie break over NE. Bengals go 1-1 with loss against Baltimore, 10-6 (vs. MIN, vs. BAL). Ravens win the division. Colts at best finish 1-1 to go 10-6 (@KC, vs. JAX) Tie breaker would come down to record against common opponents (Ravens 4-1, Colts 3-2) Advantage, Ravens.
If the Ravens, Bengals, Patriots, Colts, and Dolphins all finish 10-6, the playoff field would look like this:
1. Broncos, 2. Ravens, 3. Dolphins, 4. Colts, 5. Chiefs, 6. Bengals
On the other extreme end of the spectrum, five teams could finish 8-8 with only one getting the final spot in the postseason, those being the Ravens, Dolphins, Chargers, Steelers, Jets. First tie breakers would be division records, in which case the Steelers would finish ahead of the Ravens (4-2 vs. 3-3 division record). The Jets would finish ahead of Dolphins (3-3 vs. 2-4 division record). So it would come down to Chargers, Steelers, Jets. H2H wouldn’t apply, so it comes down to conference record. Chargers would be 6-6, Steelers would be 6-6, Jets would be 5-7. Goodbye Jets. It would then come down to record against common opponents. Chargers 1-4, Steelers 1-4. Then you look at strength of victory. Without trying to figure out the math, the Steelers could have wins over just two teams with winning records (CIN, GB maybe). The Chargers have wins over the Broncos, Chiefs, Colts. It looks like the edge goes to the Chargers here for the #6 seed.
The Ravens can get in at 8-8 if the Dolphins lose out (8-8) Chargers lose out (7-9) and Steelers and Jets lose one more game (7-9 or 6-10). Any three way tie favors the Dolphins.
Certainly so much more to sort out with just two games left.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]