Breaking down the Ravens’ playoff picture after Week 17

Ravens. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
Ravens. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Ravens took a fatal shot to their postseason hopes after Week 17’s loss which affects their playoff seeding in a potentially catastrophic way.

Baltimore fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in an embarrassing defeat on Sunday, and this week will be all about picking up the pieces and trying to boost team morale before the start of the postseason.

The Ravens’ offense remains impotent as ever without Lamar Jackson under center, and there’s still no word on when Jackson will return to the field. Baltimore only scored 13 points against the Steelers, marking their fifth consecutive game of scoring fewer than 20 points.

While the Ravens still have a chance to top the AFC North, that outcome entirely hinges on the result of the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals Week 17 game, which was postponed after Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s sudden collapse in the first quarter.

If the Bengals lose that game, the Ravens can win the division by beating them in Week 18. If the Bengals win, they will claim the AFC North title for the second consecutive year.

Here’s what the AFC playoff picture looks like after Week 17:

Ravens’ playoff picture after Week 17

1. Kansas City Chiefs (13-3)
2. Buffalo Bills (12-3)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (10-6)
6. Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
7. New England Patriots (8-8)

In the hunt: Miami Dolphins (8-8), Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8), Tennessee Titans (7-9)

If the season ended today, the Ravens would travel to Cincinnati to play a back-to-back game against the Bengals, who are currently the No. 3 seed, in the Wild Card round. Since the Bills and Bengals haven’t played yet, this playoff picture is likely to change, but for the time being, an early playoff clash between AFC North rivals appears to be in the cards.

The 10-6 Ravens now occupy the No. 6 seed behind the Los Angeles Chargers, who moved up to No. 5 because of a better conference record (Baltimore is 6-5 in the AFC and Los Angeles is 7-4).

The Bengals have three roads ahead of them depending on how the final week plays out: The first is the current scenario in which the sixth-seeded Ravens play the Bengals on the road.

The second is earning a top seed in the playoff picture, which assumes the Bengals lose their final two games. Baltimore would be crowned AFC North champion and thus take the No. 3 seed.

The third is a little more complicated and would see the Ravens winning the No. 5 seed. That requires the following to happen: the Bengals beat the Bills, and in Week 18 the Ravens beat the Bengals and the Denver Broncos beat the Chargers.

It goes without saying that the Bengals are not a desirable first-round playoff opponent, and the Ravens will want to avoid that treacherous road if possible.

Yet winning the AFC North feels like a long shot right now. Assuming the Bengals beat the Bills, the Ravens’ ideal situation is getting the No. 5 seed and playing either the Jaguars or the Titans in the Wild Card round.

Even then, the Ravens’ hopes of making a deep postseason run continue to diminish after the team’s lackluster Week 17 performance against the Steelers.

Next. Three positive takeaways from Ravens’ Week 17 bitter defeat. dark

Unless the Ravens make drastic offensive improvements or unless Lamar Jackson returns to MVP form, this season feels like a one-and-done kind of playoff year.