Steelers can clinch playoffs Sunday; Ravens can't

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Here's a playoff tidbit that doesn't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things because the Ravens still have four games left to play, but it's interesting nonetheless: The Pittsburgh Steelers, who like the Ravens are 9-3 but who trail the Ravens in the AFC North, can clinch a playoff spot Sunday. Somehow, the Ravens cannot.

According to this NFL release via the Ravens, there are three scenarios in Week 14 in which the second-place Steelers can secure a playoff spot, all of which are dependent on the Steelers beating the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night. Here are the scenarios, which all hinge on the outcomes of at least four games:


1. The Steelers win and the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans all lose.

2. The Steelers win and the Bengals, the Titans, the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos all lose.


3. The Steelers win and the Bengals, the Jets, the Raiders and the Broncos all lose.

If one of those scenarios played out, the Steelers, who are 7-3 in the conference, would be locked in with fewer conference losses than the AFC teams chasing them for a playoff spot. The Ravens, who are 6-2 in the conference, play their final four games against AFC teams, so theoretically they could finish with a worse AFC record than some of the five AFC teams that are 7-5 overall.

It sounds confusing, I know, but if the Ravens win out, count on good playoff scenarios falling into place for them.

*** This post has been updated since first publication.