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The AFC numbers game in a nutshell

The NFL regular season has reached the three-quarters pole, and there still are too many possibilities to predict who will make the playoffs.

But it's not too early to surmise that the Ravens put themselves in a very precarious postseason position with Sunday's 34-33 come-from-ahead loss to the San Diego Chargers.

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The Ravens fell to 7-5, as did the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns, leaving the Cincinnati Bengals in very strong position to win the AFC North division after they squeaked past the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

The Bengals can be caught, and the Ravens need to catch them, because they aren't in a great wild-card tiebreaker situation with a 2-3 division record and a 3-5 record in the conference.

The Ravens now have lost the head-to-head tie-breaker to the Chargers and that conference mark is going to come back and bite them if they end up with the same record as the Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

That's very possible with so many AFC teams currently standing at 7-5.

What the Ravens have going for them in the division is their remaining schedule, which includes road games against the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans and home games against the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars and the Browns. The Bengals, meanwhile, have to face the Steelers twice, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and a road game at Cleveland.

The Steelers have the two showdowns with the Bengals, face a very tough Chiefs team at home and the Atlanta Falcons on the road.

So, what needs to happen? The Ravens need to win out and hope the Bengals and the Steelers both split their remaining four games.

That's no easy task, especially with a pretty good Dolphins waiting for them next week in Miami. But it's all still possible, which is about all anyone can ask for after the Ravens blew a 10-point lead in the final minutes of the fourth quarter Sunday.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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