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Baltimore Ravens

How the Ravens’ finale vs. Pittsburgh could affect their draft order, record books and more

The Ravens need a lot of outside help Sunday, enough that coach John Harbaugh won’t bother reviewing the Week 18 rooting guide with his team.

A five-game losing streak has complicated a once-simple path to the playoffs. To make the postseason for the fourth straight year, the Ravens (8-8) need wins from a two-touchdown underdog (the Jacksonville Jaguars), a field-goal underdog (the Las Vegas Raiders) and a conference rival (the New England Patriots).

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They also have to take care of business inside M&T Bank Stadium. The Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7-1) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who’s approaching what will likely be the final game of his hallowed NFL career, have their own long-shot playoff ambitions.

“Our focus is going to be on our game, winning our game,” Harbaugh said Monday. “So nothing matters if we don’t win. That’s really the focus every week, and that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

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Sunday’s game has implications far beyond the Ravens’ minuscule playoff odds, however. Here’s a look at what’s at stake for the Ravens’ draft slot, schedule, record books and more.

Take your pick

The Ravens enter Week 18 with the No. 16 slot in the 2022 draft. Where they end up depends not only on what happens Sunday in Baltimore but also around the NFL.

If the Ravens lose to the Steelers, they’d end up with a pick as high as No. 14 overall and as low as No. 16. If they beat the Steelers but miss the playoffs, they’d almost certainly fall to No. 18 overall. If the Ravens make the playoffs, their first pick would be no better than No. 19, and would depend thereafter on postseason results.

In the case of a tiebreaker, strength of schedule determines draft order — the lower the aggregate winning percentage of a team’s opponents, the better. That’s bad news for the Ravens, whose current strength of schedule (.531) is stronger than any team’s in their draft range. Here’s a look at the Ravens’ company in the draft order, including record, strength of schedule and Week 18 opponent.

  • 10. Atlanta Falcons: 7-9, .461, vs. New Orleans Saints
  • 11. Denver Broncos: 7-9, .478, vs. Kansas City Chiefs
  • 12. Minnesota Vikings: 7-9, .513, vs. Chicago Bears
  • 13. Cleveland Browns: 7-9, .524, vs. Cincinnati Bengals
  • 14. Philadelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins): 8-8, .467 SOS, vs. New England Patriots
  • 15. New Orleans Saints: 8-8, .515, at Falcons
  • 16. Ravens: 8-8, .531, vs. Steelers
  • 17. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-7-1, .520, at Ravens
  • 18. Las Vegas Raiders: 9-7, .517, vs. Los Angeles Chargers
  • 19. Philadelphia Eagles: 9-7, .461, vs. Dallas Cowboys
  • 20. Los Angeles Chargers: 9-7, .509, at Raiders
  • 21. Philadelphia Eagles (via Indianapolis Colts): 9-7, .489, at Jacksonville Jaguars
  • 22. Miami Dolphins (via San Francisco 49ers): 9-7, .509, at Los Angeles Rams

According to ESPN, the Ravens are strong favorites to end up with the No. 18 pick (57% odds), with the No. 15 pick (21%) and No. 14 pick (8%) as the second- and third-most likely outcomes.

On schedule

While the Ravens’ 2022 schedule won’t be released until the spring, the team’s opponents will be finalized Sunday.

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Much of the 17-game slate is already known. The Ravens will play six games against the AFC North: home-and-home series against the Bengals, Browns and Bengals. The Ravens, who are 1-4 against division foes this season, last won just one AFC North game in 2007.

Under the NFL’s schedule rotations, the Ravens will also face the entire AFC East — home games against the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins and road games against the New England Patriots and New York Jets — and the entire NFC South — home games against the Carolina Panthers and Falcons and road games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Saints.

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That leaves three games to be determined. The Ravens will play a home game against a matching-rank team in the AFC West and road games against matching-rank teams in the AFC South and NFC East. That means a third-place finish in the AFC North would leave the Ravens hosting either the Chargers or Raiders and traveling to play the Houston Texans and Washington Football Team.

Special success

With another strong showing Sunday, the Ravens can finish the season as the NFL’s top special teams unit. According to Football Outsiders, the Ravens lead the league in special teams DVOA, or defense-adjusted value over average, which measures success relative to the league average and accounts for variables such as opponent quality.

The Ravens enter Week 18 with a DVOA of 6.0%, ahead of the second-place Kansas City Chiefs (4.4%) but lower than the Ravens’ 2020 mark (7.4%), which trailed only the New England Patriots’ (8.1%). In their third season under special teams coordinator Chris Horton, the Ravens rank first in field goals and extra points, second in punt returns, seventh in punt coverage, 12th in kickoff returns and 22nd in kickoff coverage, according to Football Outsiders.

Under Harbaugh, a former special teams coordinator, the Ravens have taken up almost permanent residence in the upper echelons of special teams play. Since his hiring in 2008, the Ravens have finished in the top 10 in DVOA in all but two seasons, including three years at No. 1.

Record watch

A handful of individual, team and NFL records and milestones are on the line Sunday:

  • Barring an unexpected practice squad call-up, the Ravens will end the season with 75 players having appeared in a game this season, tying the 2020 team for the most in franchise history.
  • The Ravens have allowed a franchise-worst 4,507 passing yards this season, or 281.7 yards per game. That average is a virtual lock to eclipse the highwater mark set in 2014, when the Ravens allowed 248.7 yards per game. The Ravens’ 100.9 passer rating allowed is also currently the worst in franchise history, ahead of the 99.6 rating allowed in 2015.
  • Quarterback Lamar Jackson needs 33 passing yards to reach 10,000 for his career. If he hits the mark Sunday, he’d become the fastest quarterback in NFL history to record 10,000 passing yards and 3,500 rushing yards.
  • Tight end Mark Andrews needs five catches to break the Ravens’ single-season reception record. Wide receiver Derrick Mason finished with a franchise-best 103 catches in 2007, though he did so in 16 games.
  • Andrews, now the Ravens’ single-season record-holder for receiving yardage (1,276), also needs 141 yards to break the single-season NFL record at the position. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce had 1,416 yards in just 15 games last season.
  • Among qualifying players, Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay leads the NFL in punt return average (14.4 yards). Lamont Brightful (2002) and Jermaine Lewis (2000) share the Ravens’ single-season record for punt return average (16.1 yards).
  • Wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown needs 19 receiving yards to reach 1,000 this season. He would be the first Ravens receiver since Mike Wallace in 2016 and the 14th player in franchise history to hit the milestone.
  • Inside linebacker Patrick Queen needs one tackle to reach 200 for his career. With another tackle for loss, he’d join the Buccaneers’ Devin White, Saints’ Demario Davis and Bears’ Roquan Smith as the NFL’s only defenders with at least 200 tackles and 20 tackles for loss since the start of last season.
  • Kicker Justin Tucker needs 12 points to set a career high and Ravens single-season record. He’s reached 141 points four times in his career.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt needs 1 ½ sacks to break the NFL’s single-season record. The New York Giants’ Michael Strahan finished with 22 ½ sacks in 16 games in 2001. Watt has 21 ½ sacks in 14 games this season, including 3 ½ against the Ravens in Week 13.

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