The Baltimore Ravens greatly increased the likelihood of a playoff appearance this year, with a win against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. In a dire situation, the Baltimore Ravens faced virtual elimination. A loss would have pushed the Ravens down to 4-6, and give the 6-4 Bengals a tiebreaker over Baltimore. The Bengals were in possession of the sixth and final playoff seed entering the game, and a win would put them in a great position to make the playoffs. The Ravens, down a starting quarterback, took a liking to the magnitude of the situation. Baltimore stripped the Bengals of the wild card title. With the victory, the Baltimore Ravens claim the sixth seed, at least for now.
After Sunday’s victory, the Ravens climbed back into the winner’s column for the first time in a month. After starting 4-2, the Ravens went into a three-game skid, losing to the Saints, Panthers, and Steelers. The situation looked bleak, as the once prominent team looked to be falling apart. According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, the Ravens were at a breaking point. Before the start of the game against the Bengals, he tweeted out that “A win increases Ravens’ playoff chances to 43 percent. A loss plummets Baltimore’s postseason odds to 7.7 percent.” The Ravens fought hard and earned the 43% chance, calculated by ESPN.
While ESPN currently thinks the Ravens have a 43% chance to make the playoffs, other NFL statistical sources are weighing in. FiveThirtyEight gives the Ravens a 37% chance to make the playoffs, and a 3% chance to win the division. They also estimate that the Ravens will finish with 8.5 wins. FiveThirtyEight also pins the Ravens’ closest competitor as the Tennessee Titans. They believe that Tennessee has a 36% chance to make the playoffs. FiveThirtyEight also gives the Cincinnati Bengals a 24% chance to make the playoffs, the Indianapolis Colts a 22% chance, and the Miami Dolphins a 13% chance.
The New York Times is more generous to Baltimore. They give the Ravens a 40% chance to make the playoffs, and a 5% chance to win the division. The Times is also fairly unsure who Baltimore’s main competitor is. They give the Colts a 26% chance to make the playoffs, the Titans a 25% chance, the Bengals a 23% chance, and the Dolphins a 17% chance. NFL Network’s statistics specialist, Cynthia Frelund, is the most optimistic for the Ravens. She gives the Ravens a 48% chance to make the playoffs. Although, she may not be the most reliable source, as she gave the Ravens a 97% chance to make the playoffs last year.
The remaining schedule for the Ravens will not be a breeze. Baltimore has three games yet to play that should result in victories. The Ravens should defeat the Oakland Raiders (Nov. 25), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Dec. 16), and the Cleveland Browns (Dec. 30). If the Ravens earn a win in each of these games, they will finish the season with at least eight wins. There are two games remaining that are toss-ups. The two tossups are against the Atlanta Falcons (Dec. 2), and Los Angeles Chargers (Dec. 22). Assuming the Ravens split the series in the most likely way (defeating the 4-6 Falcons and losing to the 7-3 Chargers), Baltimore will have at least nine wins. The Ravens still have one game left, in Kansas City against the Chiefs. It will be extremely difficult for the Ravens to defeat the Chiefs, who continue to dominate, benefited by the arm of Patrick Mahomes. Therefore, the most likely record at the end of the season for the Ravens is 9-7.
FiveThirtyEight gives projected wins for each team. As previously stated, Baltimore’s main competitors are the Bengals, Titans, Colts, and Dolphins. The Ravens already have a tiebreaker over the Titans, which could prove vital after week 17. FiveThirtyEight predicts that Tennessee will finish with 8.7 wins, the Bengals and Colts with 8.2, and the Dolphins with 7.5. If these projections are correct, and the Titans finish with 9 wins while the rest of the competitors finish with 8, then the Ravens get the playoff berth. A potential tiebreaker over the Bengals would depend upon who finishes with the better record in the AFC North. If both finish tied, then it goes to conference win-loss percentage, which would be used if the Dolphins or Colts tied with the Ravens at the end of the year. Right now, it is too early on to give an advantage to any team in these tie-breaking scenarios.
Overall, the Baltimore Ravens greatly increased their playoff chances by defeating the Bengals. It is too early to give Baltimore a clear advantage, but the win puts them in the mix with the other contenders. The Ravens will have to continue to take care of business, first at home against the Raiders, then in Atlanta against the Falcons. If the Ravens win both of these games to improve to a 7-5 record, the statistical chances of a playoff appearance will mirror Baltimore’s recent success. If they lose either of the games, it will become more difficult for the Ravens to return to the playoffs. The Ravens still have a difficult path to travel, but one thing remains certain. The Ravens are in a much better position today at 5-5 than last week at 4-5.