The Ravens have had a division lead basically from the second the season started. They won monday night football over the Bengals week one which gave them an imediate 1 game lead over the Bengals. The Browns were 0-4 before they found the win column and the Steelers lost their week one matchup with Peyton Manning and the Broncos and went on to have records of 1-2 and later 2-3. since then the Bengals have lost ground and are now a full three games back at 3-5 and basically out of contention for the division crown.
For the Bengals to get back in they would have to win at least 3 more games than the Ravens and 2 more games than the Steelers including winning all of their division games to get the necessary tie-breakers. Even doing that though, if the Ravens were to sweep the Steelers, the Bengals still wouldn’t win the division as the Ravens would have a 5-1 division record and the Bengals would be 3-3. In fact, for the Bengals to win the division, they would need the Ravens to lose at least 3 division games while the Bengals themselves run the table, and they would need the Ravens to be swept by the Steelers in addition to loosing their week 17 matchup with the Bengals. In addition to the 3 division losses, the Ravens would also need to loose an additional AFC matchup. that means, at best the Ravens would have to go 4-4 down the stretch losing every division game and 4 out their remaining 6 conference games. the chances of that happening are pretty slim and quite honestly, even if the Ravens lost those games, the Bengals probably arent good enough to run the table of their remaining schedule. Their schedule includes games against The Giants, Steelers, Ravens and the Eagles. All of those teams are either capable or likely to beat the Bengals.
The Steelers, on the other hand, are nipping at the Ravens heels. They are currently 5-3 and just 1 game behind the Ravens. They also have a very favorable schedule moving forward with two games against the Browns, and one each against the Cowboys(3-5), the Chargers(4-4), The Bengals(3-5) and the Chiefs(1-7). aside from their 2 games against the Ravens, there isn’t a winning record in the bunch. it is not out of the question that the Steelers would go 6-2 or 7-1 down the stretch. That means the Ravens would need to go at least 6-2 or 5-3 down the stretch. If the Steelers and Ravens split, which is probably going to happen, then both teams would likely finish with a 5-1 division record which means the tie-breaker would be conference record(technically the next tie breaker would be common games win-loss record, but I am not projecting specific wins and losses here so I am going to skip it). Thats where the good news comes in. the Ravens are 5-1 in conference while the Steelers are a non threatening 2-3. That means even if the Steelers go 7-1 down the stretch and the Ravens go 6-2, at worst, that leaves the Ravens and steelers locked in a tie for the division lead. At that point the tie-breaker would be strength of victory. as of now the Steelers would win that tie breaker and due to their weak schedule they will likely maintain that lead.
With all that in mind, I would imagine the Ravens would much rather win this thing outright then have to face all the tie breaker statistics. One sure-fire way to win the division is to sweep the Steelers. If the Ravens swept the Steelers they would likely finish undefeated in the division for the second year in a row. that also means the best the Steelers could do is go 6-2 down the stretch, meaning that the Ravens would just have to muster a 5-3 record and they would still win the division outright thanks to the head to head sweep. The next four games are crucial to the Ravens season.
They play the Raiders, Steelers, Chargers and Steelers again. Winning the first two games of this run would give the Steelers a likely 6-4 record and the Ravens an 8-2 record. That would mean a 2 game lead in division with the last Steelers match-up in Baltimore. Win the first two games of this stretch and the Ravens make the odds of winning the division substantially higher for themselves and force the Steelers into a situation where they would likely have to win all 6 of their last 6 games and cross their fingers for the Ravens to go 4-2.
Long story short, play well these next two weeks Ravens…This is probably the 2 most important weeks of the season.