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Ravens' only way into playoffs is to win and hope for help from the Chiefs

Coach John Harbaugh was upbeat and energized Monday, insisting that the Ravens still have an opportunity to do something great.

But since his news conference, his team's already tenuous playoff hopes took another hit with the Cincinnati Bengals' 37-28 victory over the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football.

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The Bengals intercepted Peyton Manning four times en route to clinching no worse than an AFC wild-card spot. Cincinnati will play the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have already clinched a postseason berth, next Sunday night with the AFC North title on the line.

As for the Ravens (9-6), they now know that there is only one way into the playoffs. They need to beat the struggling Cleveland Browns in their regular-season finale at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday and then hope the San Diego Chargers (9-6) either lose to or tie the host Kansas City Chiefs.

If that scenario plays out, the Ravens would get the sixth and final playoff spot. The Ravens also can get in with a tie and a Chargers' loss, or a win and a Chargers' tie.

If both the Ravens and Chargers win Sunday, San Diego would advance to the playoffs because of their victory over the Ravens in Baltimore a couple weeks ago.

The Chiefs (8-7) still haven't been eliminated from playoff contention. However, they'd need to beat the Chargers and have both the Ravens and the Houston Texans, who face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, lose for them to go to the postseason.

For those wondering, the Chiefs beat the Chargers, 23-20, in San Diego in Week 7. That was a start of a five-game winning streak for them, which included a victory over the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. However, the Chiefs have lost four of their past five games and now need a lot more help than the Ravens do to make the postseason.

It still creates an interesting dynamic. Harbaugh's brother, Jim, the coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was unable to help the Ravens out this past week as the 49ers blew a big lead and lost to the Chargers on Saturday night. Now, John Harbaugh has to hope that his friend and old boss in Philadelphia, Andy Reid, can lead his Chiefs over the Chargers.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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