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Baltimore Ravens

AFC playoff picture: Ravens on outside looking in, but pivotal Week 16 matchup vs. Bengals looms

For an idea of how quickly playoff fortunes can change in the AFC, consider the Ravens’ past three weeks.

Had the regular season ended after Week 12, the Ravens would’ve been the conference’s top seed. Now, after three straight defeats, the last a 31-30 loss Sunday night to the Green Bay Packers, they wouldn’t even make the NFL’s expanded, seven-team playoff field if the season ended Tuesday. And yet, according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections, they remain favored not only to make the playoffs but also to win the AFC North.

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A lot can and will change over the final three weeks of the regular season. This Ravens season has been nothing if not unpredictable. With a crucial and potentially division-deciding matchup Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals looming, here’s a closer look at where the Ravens stand in the AFC playoff picture. All postseason odds reflect FiveThirtyEight projections as of Monday night.

Division leaders

1. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (10-4)

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Playoff odds: 99+%

Remaining schedule: vs. Steelers, at Bengals, at Broncos

The Chiefs, winners of seven straight, are back to being AFC favorites. After a dramatic win Thursday night, they also have a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Chargers. A favorable end-of-season schedule gives Kansas City a good shot at securing a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the postseason.

2. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-5)

Playoff odds: 98%

Remaining schedule: vs. Bills, vs. Jaguars, at Dolphins

The Patriots’ seven-game winning streak ended Saturday night with their loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but they remain ahead of the Tennessee Titans thanks to a win in their Week 12 matchup. Sunday’s rematch with the Buffalo Bills is critical, as both teams enter Week 16 with 3-1 marks in AFC East play, a potentially decisive tiebreaker.

3. TENNESSEE TITANS (9-5)

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Playoff odds: 95%

Remaining schedule: vs. 49ers, vs. Dolphins, at Texans

The Titans could’ve claimed the No. 1 seed with a win Sunday over the Pittsburgh Steelers — they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs — but an ugly loss left them within range of the surging Colts in the AFC South. Still, Tennessee’s sweep of Indianapolis makes them tough to catch.

4. CINCINNATI BENGALS (8-6)

Playoff odds: 51%

Remaining schedule: vs. Ravens, vs. Chiefs, at Browns

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A Week 7 win in Baltimore has Cincinnati atop the AFC North and the Ravens on the outside looking in. If the Bengals complete the season sweep at home Sunday, they’d become heavy AFC North favorites. If they lose, their season could spiral quickly.

Quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals have a 51% chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections.

Wild cards

5. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (8-6)

Playoff odds: 89%

Remaining schedule: at Cardinals, vs. Raiders, at Jaguars

Since their Week 5 collapse in Baltimore, the Colts have won seven of nine games and positioned themselves well for a top-five seed. If Indianapolis can get past a flagging Arizona Cardinals team, it should enter the postseason on a five-game winning streak. Could that be enough to jump the Titans in the AFC South?

6. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (8-6)

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Playoff odds: 75%

Remaining schedule: at Texans, vs. Broncos, at Raiders

The Chargers could’ve seized control of the AFC West with a win Thursday over the Chiefs, whom they’d beaten in their first matchup. Now they might have to hold on in a crowded wild-card field, where an earlier loss to the Ravens and win over the Bengals could be crucial. The Chargers’ schedule is manageable, but this week’s coronavirus outbreak won’t help.

7. BUFFALO BILLS (8-6)

Playoff odds: 77%

Remaining schedule: at Patriots, vs. Falcons, vs. Jets

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The Bills are stuck with the seventh seed thanks to a 5-5 conference record, a half-game worse than the Chargers’ 5-4 mark. Buffalo should be favored to make the playoffs even with another loss to New England, but a win would give them control of the AFC East.

Outside looking in

8. RAVENS (8-6)

Playoff odds: 57%

Remaining schedule: at Bengals, vs. Rams, vs. Steelers

The Ravens need to get healthy, and fast. Their two remaining division games will prove decisive. With wins over the Bengals and Steelers, they’d be virtual playoff locks.

9. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-6-1)

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Playoff odds: 18%

Remaining schedule: at Chiefs, vs. Browns, at Ravens

Somehow, the Steelers are still hanging around, still looking to find a path into the playoffs. Up next: the AFC’s top team, a Cleveland offense that can run all over Pittsburgh’s shoddy run defense, and a potentially just-as-desperate Ravens team playing in Baltimore.

10. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (7-7)

Playoff odds: 11%

Remaining schedule: vs. Broncos, at Colts, vs. Chargers

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The Raiders kept their slim hopes alive with a last-second win Monday night against a coronavirus-ravaged Browns team. But they’ll need a lot of help to sneak into the playoffs as a wild-card team.

11. MIAMI DOLPHINS (7-7)

Playoff odds: 11%

Remaining schedule: at Saints, at Titans, vs. Patriots

The Dolphins have won six straight games since starting the season 1-7. But an AFC East division title is unlikely, and the playoff odds aren’t great for any 7-7 team.

12. CLEVELAND BROWNS (7-7)

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Playoff odds: 15%

Remaining schedule: at Packers, at Steelers, vs. Bengals

The Browns would’ve jumped into a tie for first in the AFC North with a win over Las Vegas. Now Cleveland faces an uphill battle for a postseason bid. Chances are, it’s going to be a long offseason for Baker Mayfield.

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13. DENVER BRONCOS (7-7)

Playoff odds: 5%

Remaining schedule: at Raiders, at Chargers, vs. Chiefs

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The Broncos have the worst playoff odds of any AFC team that hasn’t been eliminated. A loss in Las Vegas would likely be a knockout blow.

Eliminated

14. NEW YORK JETS (3-11)

15. HOUSTON TEXANS (3-11)

16. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (2-12)


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