So Easy, a Caveman Could Do It
Entertaining opening paragraphs risk straying into literature, so let’s get right down to business.
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.
Gone now is the possibility of the tiebreaker being decided by strength of victory. That’s a good thing too, because the Ravens would have lost it. Also gone is the need to explain why the conference record tiebreaker is dependent on just 4 games each, because it will have no bearing.
We were spared this additional analysis because on Thanksgiving night, the Steelers’ good fortune to avoid Andrew Luck and resulting 28-7 victory secured the 3rd tiebreaker (common opponents) for the Ravens, rendering all lesser tiebreakers moot.
So what’s left to determine the division winner in the event of a tie with the Steelers? The 2-way, in-division 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 paths to the division championship include a win in Pittsburgh in Week 16.
–Division Record: The Ravens have a 4-0 record in division while the Steelers are just 2-1. At one point this was the Ravens’ biggest vulnerability. However, the Ravens can now only lose this tiebreaker if they lose both of their remaining division games while the Steelers win all 3 of theirs. If that happens, I think it’s unlikely the Ravens and Steelers will be tied. If the Ravens lose to the Steelers, but beat the Bengals in Week 17, the Ravens will do no worse than push this tiebreaker and the division will be decided by…
–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 are now 2-0, having beaten both Kansas City and Indianapolis. Remember, both teams have to have the same (tied) record at the end of the season. So if we want to look at common opponents, we take out the 1-1 HTH and the records each has versus uncommon opponents, and voila, the Ravens have a record that’s one game better in the common-opponents games, thus winning the tiebreaker.
Does that make sense? If so, please enjoy the following video and finish with a chest thump and pen flip declaring your status as Man and intention to dominate this planet.
So was it a good thing that the Steelers won versus the Colts? Of course not. The Ravens had other easier paths to the division with an extra Steelers loss. But it sure simplified the tiebreaker discussion.
The Ravens still have a difficult path to the AFCN title. While some folks are saying 8-8 may be good enough, I don’t see both teams winning 2 or fewer of their last 5 games. So the Ravens probably need 3 wins, with at least 1 coming in division. If the Ravens meet those criteria, the Steelers will have to either:
The Steelers other opponents over the last 5 weeks are NYG, @Buf, @Cin, Cle.