The five games in Week 12 that mattered to the Ravens ahead of ‘Monday Night Football’

With the Ravens scheduled to face the Los Angeles Rams on “Monday Night Football,” their fans got a rare chance over the long weekend to focus on the teams that might impact their drive to the AFC North title and into the playoffs.

It might appear that they have the division all but wrapped up, but the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) and Cleveland Browns (5-6) clearly have some fight left in them in the aftermath of their helmet-bashing debacle 10 days ago in Cleveland.


There’s also the battle for the playoff byes and home-field advantage during the postseason, which will be impacted by several key AFC matchups over the next few weeks — and probably was on Sunday in New England.

So, here’s a look at the five games in Week 12 that should matter to the purple passionate.

Patriots 13, Cowboys 9: The Ravens (8-2) clearly have Super Bowl aspirations, which would be greatly enhanced by wresting the No. 1 playoff seed away from the Patriots, who have parlayed a ridiculously easy first-half schedule into the best record in the conference at 10-1.

The Cowboys figured to provide a big test and they did, but a missed field-goal attempt, a blocked punt and a turnover allowed the Patriots to jump out to an effortless 10-point lead, and their top-ranked defense did the rest.

The Pats have a couple of tough matchups remaining against the Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) and Buffalo Bills (8-3), but in a shocking development, both of those teams — like the Cowboys — will have to travel to Gillette Stadium.

Still, if the Ravens can stay hot and somehow pick up a game on New England, they hold the tiebreaker thanks to their resounding victory over the Patriots three weeks ago.

Steelers 16, Bengals 10: Everyone knows what happened to the Steelers on “Thursday Night Football” in Week 11. They lost their top two receivers to concussions in a double-digit loss to the Browns in a game that will live in infamy because of the Myles Garrett helmet-bashing incident.

No doubt, the Steelers caught a break drawing the winless Bengals (0-11), who were surprisingly competitive Sunday and were in position to win the game late before a disastrous red-zone turnover.

Pittsburgh certainly isn’t playing well, and coach Mike Tomlin had to bench stand-in starting quarterback Mason Rudolph to get anything out of his offense.

Nevertheless, a win is a win, and the Steelers are in the second AFC wild-card slot by virtue of the conference-record tiebreaker. They remain a big long shot to overtake the Ravens, but they could have something to say about the playoff seedings when they come to Baltimore for the final game of the regular season.

Browns 41, Dolphins 24: The Browns also benefited from a soft opponent after losing two key defenders to suspensions, but quarterback Baker Mayfield had a big day to keep them mathematically alive for the playoffs.

They really aren’t a big threat to be playing in January and it’s hard to make too much of a lopsided win against the frightful Miami Dolphins (2-9), but they dropped 45 points on the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in September and the rematch takes place in Cleveland in December. They’re still dangerous.

Bills 20, Broncos 3: The Bills are having a terrific season and Sunday’s victory over the Denver Broncos (3-8) improved their record to 8-3, which keeps them in the driver’s seat for the top AFC wild-card berth.

But their significance to the Ravens’ postseason prospects relate more to Week 14, when they host Lamar Jackson and Co. at the usually frigid New Era Field.


The Ravens currently have a two-game edge on the rest of the potential playoff field for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, but the game against the Bills figures to play large if they are to have any chance of gaining home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

Texans 20, Colts 17: Thursday night’s game for the AFC South lead certainly didn’t feature the kind of drama that continues to resonate from the previous edition of “Thursday Night Football,” but in the context of the Ravens’ playoff push, it was very significant.

The Texans bounced back from the drubbing they took at the hands of the Ravens four days earlier to take over first place and join the AFC West-leading Chiefs at 7-4.

Those are the two teams that are best positioned to compete with the Ravens for a bye if the Patriots hold on to the top spot. It isn’t far-fetched to see all three of them tied at the end of the regular season, which would make for an interesting tiebreaker since the Ravens have beaten the Texans head-to-head, the Texans have beaten the Chiefs and the Chiefs have beaten the Ravens.

Of course, the Ravens are in the midst of the toughest stretch in one of the toughest schedules in the conference, but they have won six games in a row to gain a large measure of control over their playoff destiny.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun