Ravens can clinch division as early as Sunday

Last year, the Ravens went into Cincinnati, beat the Bengals and clinched an AFC North title on the season's final weekend.

This season, it doesn't appear that they'll have to wait that long. In fact, they may not even have to wait beyond this weekend.

A Ravens victory over the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, coupled by a Bengals loss against the San Diego Chargers, would give the Ravens their second straight AFC North crown.

Following their thrilling 16-13 overtime victory over the Chargers yesterday, the Ravens sit at 9-2 for just the second time in team history. They have a three-game lead over the Steelers, who were beaten by the last-place Cleveland Browns yesterday, and the Bengals, who trounced the awful Oakland Raiders to improve to 6-5.

Obviously, a Ravens victory Sunday would create a four-game lead over the Steelers with only four games to play. The Ravens would also have the first tiebreak by virtue of their head-to-head sweep over Pittsburgh, meaning the Steelers would be eliminated from contention for the division crown.

As for the Bengals, if they fell four games back with four to play, they couldn't catch the Ravens either even if they beat them in Week 16 in the head-to-head matchup. That's because the Ravens would move to 5-0 against the division with a victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. The worst the Ravens could finish is 5-1 in that department.

The Browns, meanwhile, are 2-3 against the division and could finish no better than 3-3.

Obviously, the Ravens have bigger goals in mind, including getting a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but clinching the division this early would be a pretty nice accomplishment for John Harbaugh and company.    

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