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Ravens' playoff scenarios heading into final week of regular season

After their stunning 25-13 loss Sunday to the Houston Texans, the Ravens not only fell out of contention for the AFC North title, but they no longer control their playoff chances.

Heading into their regular-season finale next Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cleveland Browns, the Ravens have two realistic paths to the playoffs -- and both obviously start with them beating the Browns (7-8) and to finish with a 10-6 record.

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The Ravens can make the postseason if they beat the Browns, and the San Diego Chargers, who currently occupy the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC with a 9-6 record and a victory over the Ravens, lose on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs (8-7) next Sunday.

Or, the Ravens would make it if they beat the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals (9-5-1) lose their final two games: at home Monday night against the Denver Broncos and in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5).

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The Steelers clinched a playoff spot with a victory over the Chiefs on Sunday, but when they face the Bengals next Sunday, the AFC North title will be on the line regardless if Cincinnati wins Monday night or not.

The point is, the Steelers, who would host a first-round playoff game if they beat the Bengals next Sunday, still have a lot on the line. So there will be no talk of them resting starters.

Otherwise, four of the six playoff spots are set, and five will be by Monday night if the Bengals beat the Broncos.

The New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Broncos are division winners, and the Steelers will either be in as the AFC North champion or as a wild-card team if they lose to Cincinnati next week.

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It's certainly not comfortable for the Ravens to need help to get into the postseason. But they have no other choice but to accept it and move on now.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jeffzrebiecsun

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