We’re still not allowed to talk about it after losing to the Cowboys, since no team who has ever lost to the best team in football, on the road, should ever have postseason aspirations.
But let’s do it anyway.
We can continue to focus only on the Ravens’ chance to win the division, because the AFC Wild Card is out of reach without a record more than sufficient for a division championship.
And as we discussed last week, the division tiebreakers need only include the Steelers.
To break a 2-way tie in division, the tiebreakers are, in order:
–Head to Head (HTH) is the first tiebreaker. The Ravens won the first matchup, so they can’t lose this tiebreaker, but the easiest path to the division championship may include a win in Pittsburgh in week 16.
–Division Record: The Ravens have a paper advantage with a 3-0 record in division while the Steelers are just 1-1. However, if the Ravens don’t win the HTH tiebreaker, this is the Ravens’ possible Achilles. If they win both games versus Cincinnati, they will do no worse than tie, a prospect which became more reasonable with Cincinnati’s spate of injuries versus the Bills. If the Ravens lose a game to the Bengals, they almost certainly need to beat the Steelers.
–Common Opponents: The best way to analyze this is to look at uncommon opponents, because there are only 2 each. Another way to state this tiebreaker is that the team that loses the uncommon opponent tiebreaker wins the division. The Ravens are 1-1 versus Jacksonville and Oakland. The Steelers beat Kansas City and will play Indianapolis. If they beat Indy in Week 12, they will lose this tiebreaker to the Ravens. If, on the other hand, the Steelers lose to Indianapolis on Thursday, the Ravens will need to win by one of the other 3 major tiebreakers, but will pick up a huge game in the loss column.
–Conference Record: The logic is the same as for the common opponents tiebreaker, namely the team with the worse NFC record wins the conference record tiebreaker. The Ravens are now 0-3 vs. the NFC East (Philly left in Baltimore) and the Steelers are 1-2 (NYG left). The Ravens cannot lose this tiebreaker, but they can win it if they lose to Philadelphia or the Steelers beat the Giants. We may know on Thursday night that this tiebreaker is not meaningful (if Pit beats Ind, thus losing the common opponent tiebreaker).
–Strength of Victory: The odds are now quite slim that this tiebreaker will be required. To be used, all of the following must happen:
1. The Steelers must beat the Ravens on 12/25
2. The Steelers and Ravens must lose the same number of 2 non-HTH divisional games
3. The Steelers must lose to the Colts on Thursday
4. The Steelers must lose to the Giants at home
5. The Ravens must beat the Eagles
6. The Steelers must have the same number of wins vs. (@Buf) as the Ravens have vs. (Mia, @NE)
The Ravens will almost certainly lose it if needed.
As I see it, the Ravens now require 2 of 3 wins in their divisional games. That will ensure:
1. A possible HTH tiebreaker win
2. No worse than a push for the division record tiebreaker
3. A Steelers win vs. the Colts won’t help them for tiebreaker purposes
4. In the unlikely event the Steelers lose to the Colts, but tie the Ravens, the Steelers will probably lose the conference record tiebreaker to the Ravens
5. 2 much-needed wins of 4 that will likely be required.
It remains possible the Ravens can win the division at 8-8, but the injuries suffered by Cincinnati and Indy significantly increased the likelihood at least 1 AFCN team will get to 9 wins.