The Ravens came into Sunday with a nice 2 game lead over their division. They left it with a 3 game stranglehold.
The Ravens engineered an emotional 16-13 comeback OT win in San Diego and got help when the Steelers coughed up an 8 turnover dud and lost to the Browns. They also maintained distance from the Patriots and the Broncos in the AFC, both teams won this week and remained one game back, the Patriots are effectively 2 games back thanks to the Ravens head to head victory week 3.
To lay out a scenerio. for the Steelers to win the AFC North, they must win this week in Baltimore. After that they need the Ravens to go 2-2 down the stretch while the Steelers go 4-0(or Ravens 1-3 Steelers 3-1). If the Ravens win this weekend and complete the season sweep of the Steelers, then even an 0-4 finish by the Ravens coupled with a 4-0 finish by the Steelers would leave the Steelers on the outside looking in due to the tie-breaker. The Bengals are in the same situation based on the results of the game week 17. in theory if the Ravens start losing and go 1-3 over the next four weeks coupled with a 4-0 run in the same span, then the week 17 matchup would decide the division. however, the Ravens need just 2 wins in the next four games to end the Bengals chances for that matchup. 2 wins. The Ravens beat the Steelers and win just one more and they capture back to back division titles.
The race for the second seed is much much tighter. The Ravens have a 1 game lead over each the Patriots and the Broncos. The Ravens also hold a tie breaker over the Patriots so they essentially own a 2 game lead over the Ravens since an equal record is not enough to overtake the Ravens. The Broncos are probably the biggest threat to the Ravens right now. They are nipping at the Ravens heels, but the race for the #2 seed is likely to be decided in a few weeks when the Ravens welcome the Broncos to M&T Bank stadium. win that game and the Ravens will likely take home the #2 seed. assuming they win that game, the Ravens will have a 2 game lead over both the Patriots and Broncos with 5 games left for the Pats and 4 for the Broncos(factoring in the Ravens game). If the Ravens lose that game, they would be tied with the Broncos with 4 games to play between them and tied with the Patriots with 5 games left for them. given that the Broncos would have the head to head, the Ravens would be dropped to the 3 seed if they weren’t able to make up that gap. The most interesting scenerio might be if the Ravens Patriots and Broncos all win out with the exception of the Ravens losing to the Broncos. That would force a 3 game tie between the teams. Three way ties are decided by a different tie breaker procedure.
1. record between the three teams against each other(all three would be 1-1)
2. best record in division(all three teams would be 6-0)
3. best record in common games(in this scenario the Patriots would win because the only common game would be against houston, the Ravens and Broncos both lost to Houston whereas assuming the Patriots win out, they will have beaten the Texans)
4. best conference record(in this scenario the Patriots would win here as well as they would be 11-1 while the Broncos and Ravens were both 10-2 thanks to losses to houston)
now, if you read that carefully, you noticed two things. One, the Ravens and Broncos game will be the most important game in terms of playoff seeding from here on out for the AFC. Second, the Patriots and Texans game isn’t far behind. If the Ravens lose to the Broncos, the Patriots Texans game would be the most important thing for the rest of the season. If the Ravens lost, they will be rooting for the Texans, if they win, they will be rooting for the Patriots as a last shot at winning the AFC #1 seed.
The next 5 weeks are going to be a ton of fun boys and girls, buckle up!