After a fourth straight loss Sunday, the Ravens flew back to Baltimore with their season spiraling and their playoff odds crashing. But there’s still hope on the horizon.
With two regular-season games remaining, the Ravens (8-7) have the AFC’s seventh and final playoff spot, though perhaps not for long. A Dolphins win Monday night over the New Orleans Saints would push Miami into the No. 7 seed, which if the season ended this week would face the second-seeded Tennessee Titans.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s projections, five AFC teams have at least a 97% chance of making the postseason: the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs (11-4), AFC South-leading Titans (10-5), AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills (9-6), New England Patriots (9-6) and Indianapolis Colts (9-6). That would leave two spots up for grabs in the NFL’s expanded playoff field.
The AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (9-6), after completing a season sweep of the Ravens with Sunday’s 41-21 rout, are heavily favored to make the playoffs (80%) and win the division (72%). One more victory would clinch at least a top-four seed. But considering their remaining schedule, it’s far from a sure thing.
For the Ravens, the path to an AFC North title isn’t overly complicated. If they beat the visiting Los Angeles Rams (11-4) on Sunday and the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 18, and if Cincinnati loses to the visiting Chiefs and to the Browns in Cleveland, the divisional crown would return to Baltimore.
The Ravens, who have a 30% chance of advancing to the postseason, have better odds of getting in as a wild-card team. But there’s plenty of stiff competition there, too, from the Los Angeles Chargers to the Steelers. Here’s where they stack up in a crowded race for the AFC’s final playoff spot, with odds via FiveThirtyEight.
Remaining schedule: vs. Denver Broncos, at Las Vegas Raiders
With standouts like outside linebacker Joey Bosa, wide receiver Mike Williams and running back Austin Ekeler missing Sunday, the Chargers got into trouble early and couldn’t escape late, losing to a depleted Houston Texans team, 41-29. Their final two games are winnable, but they’ll need outside help to get into the playoffs. A Week 6 loss in Baltimore could loom large.
Remaining schedule: at Titans, vs. Patriots
After sinking to 1-7 with a seven-game losing streak, Miami has reeled off seven straight wins to get back in the mix. If the Dolphins win their next two games, they’re in. But that’s easier said than done. Tennessee and New England, which narrowly lost to Miami in its season opener, all have playoff spots to fight for.
Remaining schedule: at Colts, vs. Chargers
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The Raiders are another team in control of its postseason prospects. But how much can you trust Las Vegas to win in Indianapolis and then beat a Chargers team that easily won their first matchup in early October?
Remaining schedule: vs. Browns, at Ravens
Pittsburgh looked nothing like a playoff team Sunday, when the Chiefs rolled to a 36-10 win. But the Steelers have wins over Cleveland and the Ravens, and who knows what quarterback Ben Roethlisberger might have in store for his potential last hurrah? If they win these next two, their playoff odds shoot up to 66%.
Remaining schedule: at Steelers, vs. Bengals
How bleak are Cleveland’s playoff chances? The Browns would have a 42% chance of advancing even if they beat the Steelers and Bengals. At this point, their best hope is having the Ravens and Cincinnati lose out to end the season.