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OWINGS MILLS - Next week, the Ravens will be looking for a win against the New England Patriots.
This week, though, Baltimore would benefit from a Patriots win.
The Ravens enter Sunday holding a narrow lead on the Miami Dolphins for the second AFC wild-card spot.
The Dolphins play New England in Miami today.
Should Miami win and improve to 8-6, it would move a half-game in front of Baltimore for the second wild-card heading into the Ravens Monday night game against the Detroit Lions.
But what also makes this game important for Baltimore is that this is likely the toughest game left on the Dolphins' schedule.
After the Patriots, Miami closes its season against the 4-9 Buffalo Bills and the 6-7 New York Jets.
The Ravens, meanwhile, close against 10-3 New England and the 9-4 Cincinnati Bengals.
Strength of schedule there favors the Dolphins.
So if Miami does manage to win Sunday and Baltimore loses Monday, the Ravens could have a difficult time making the playoffs.
A Patriots win today, though, would help Baltimore in two ways.
It would drop the Dolphins to 7-7, and it would also keep New England at least a game in front of the Bengals for the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
If Cincinnati is out of the running for one of the top two seeds and a first-round bye in the playoffs come Week 17, it may rest its starters against Baltimore, which could leave the Ravens playing against mostly backups in a game that may still be important in the race for that second wild-card spot.

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