Path to the playoffs: How the Ravens can get in, and whom they might face

If there’s a Sunday for a two-screen setup and NFL Sunday Ticket plan in Baltimore, this is as good as any. At 1 p.m., the New England Patriots (10-5) host the New York Jets while the Jacksonville Jaguars face the Texans (10-5) in Houston. At 4:25 p.m., the Ravens (9-6) and Cleveland Browns kick off at M&T Bank Stadium, and the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6-1) take on the Cincinnati Bengals inside Heinz Field.

The pair of AFC North games matters most, but all four, plus the prime-time matchup between the Tennessee Titans (9-6) and Indianapolis Colts (9-6), could factor into the Ravens’ postseason picture. By now, everyone from the Browns to Antonio Brown knows that if the Ravens win Sunday, they’re in. With a half-game lead in the AFC North, the Ravens are one victory away from their first division championship since 2012 and at least the No. 4 seed.

In the span of a few hours, the Ravens could jump as high as No. 2 in the AFC or miss the playoffs altogether for the fourth straight season. Their potential playoff opponent is just as much of an unknown. Here’s what the Ravens need for each seed — and how Week 17 could affect their next week (or two).

No. 2 seed (first-round bye)

» A win over the Browns

» A Texans loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars

» A Patriots loss to the New York Jets

» A win by the Colts or Titans (no tie) OR the Ravens win the strength-of-victory tiebreaker over the Texans

Next opponent: To be determined. In this scenario, the Patriots, Colts, Los Angeles Chargers (11-4) and Texans likely would follow the Ravens in the AFC’s seeding. Under the NFL’s unfixed playoff structure, which pits a conference’s top seed against the lowest surviving seed in the divisional round, the likely AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) could face everyone but New England, which has lost two of its past three games and three of six overall entering Week 17. Whomever the Ravens face, they’ll get them at home after a weekend off.

No. 3 seed

» A win over the Browns

» A Texans loss to the Jaguars

» A Patriots win over the Jets

» A win by the Colts or Titans (no tie)

Next opponent: Texans. Even if Houston doesn’t win the AFC South, it would still be in the playoffs — unlike the Ravens, who will likely have to win their division to make the playoffs. The worst the Texans can do is the No. 6 seed, and in that scenario, they’d face the Ravens in Baltimore next weekend.

No. 4 seed

» A win over the Browns

» A Patriots win over the Jets

OR

» A loss to the Browns

» A Steelers loss to the Bengals

OR

» A tie with the Browns

» A Steelers-Bengals tie OR A Steelers loss to the Bengals

Next opponent: Likely the Chargers. Unless the Chiefs lose to the Raiders and the Chargers beat the Broncos on Sunday, Kansas City will win the AFC West and claim the conference’s top seed. With a No. 4 seed most likely for the Ravens, their wild-card game figures to be a Week 16 rematch — only this time, about 2,500 miles from Carson, Calif.

No. 6 seed

» A tie with the Browns

» A Colts-Titans tie

» A Steelers win over the Bengals

Next opponent: Likely the Texans. In this unlikely scenario, the Steelers would earn the AFC North crown and No. 4 seed. As the second wild-card team, the Ravens would face either the Patriots or Texans on the road. For New England to fall to the No. 3 seed, the Patriots would have to lose to the Jets and have Houston defeat the Jaguars. With any other combination of results, the Ravens would face the Texans.

jshaffer@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jonas_shaffer

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