Only three weeks separate the NFL from the end of the season. As the year winds down, the Baltimore Ravens eye a potential playoff berth. It would be the first trip to the postseason for the Ravens since 2014. Baltimore had an opportunity to greatly increase their chances of making the tournament this past Sunday, as the Ravens had a shot at knocking off the Kansas City Chiefs. Unfortunately for Baltimore, the Ravens could not dethrone the best team in the AFC. Baltimore fell to 7-6 with the loss, and with the loss, the race for the wildcard got tighter, but the race for the division is still in play.
The Ravens watched as four teams in the competition for the wildcard won over the weekend. Three of the teams improved to 7-6 with victories. The Titans defeated the Jaguars 30-9, the Colts upset the Texans 24-21, and the Dolphins won in miraculous fashion 34-33. The Cleveland Browns, barely hanging on to playoff hopes by a thread, also won on Sunday. They defeated the free-falling Carolina Panthers 26-20. With the win, Cleveland improves to 5-7-1. The only help the Ravens received in the race for the wild card this weekend came from the 49ers who defeated the now 6-7 Denver Broncos in a tight, 20-14 game.
The wins by AFC contenders shorten margin for error, along with Baltimore’s chances of winning a wild card. Baltimore cannot clinch a wildcard berth without some help. The Ravens can win out and almost definitely secure a spot, but would still need to get a tiebreaker over the Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, and/or the Tennessee Titans to grab a wild-card spot. If the Ravens go 9-7 (the most likely outcome), Baltimore will need even more help. While the race for the wild-card is as wild as ever, Baltimore is closing in on a different race altogether.
The Ravens have a chance to win the AFC North, a very good chance. Pittsburgh dropped yet another game, as the Steelers lost in embarrassing fashion to the now 3-10 Oakland Raiders. Pittsburgh is spiraling out of control and still is slated to face off against the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints by the end of the year. Baltimore trails Pittsburgh by just half a game in the race for the division and has a much easier remaining schedule. Even though the Ravens lost in Kansas City, Baltimore’s chances of winning the division rose from 29% to 43% according to FiveThirtyEight. The Ravens may not even need to win out to win the AFC North either. Baltimore could win the weak division at 9-7 if the Steelers drop at least two of the next three games. Given the trend Pittsburgh is going in, this is a very real possibility.