When it comes to the AFC North, it’s fair to say that there is not a lot of love lost between teams. While there is the occasional discussion about mutual respect among certain teams, such as that which exists between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, divisional opponents will always take special pride in ruining the postseason plans of their rivals.
The Cincinnati Bengals are hoping to help play the role of spoiler for the Ravens on Sunday. While they have no chance of reaching the postseason—or even a .500 record—they head into Baltimore with an opportunity to help sabotage their hosts’ postseason ambitions, though they can’t do it alone.
The Ravens are in the driver’s seat for their own future. With a win over the Bengals, they would secure for themselves the fifth seed, the top wildcard spot, which is of course the best that they can hope for, given that they can only at best finish within two games of the Steelers.
Even if they lose, they have a pretty good shot of making it into the postseason, however. It would require both the Buffalo Bills to head into Miami and come out with a win and for the Tennessee Titans to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though the Titans have already beaten the Jaguars in Jacksonville this season, and the Jaguars cannot help or hurt their seeding, while Tennessee has everything to gain.
For the sake of summarizing, these three following results must occur in order for the Ravens to miss the postseason: the Ravens lose to the Bengals at home; the Bills defeat the Dolphins on the road; and the Titans defeat the Jaguars at home. If only two of the three occur, then they are in.
The only discrepancy among result would be what seed they end up in with a loss. Should the Bills win yet the Titans lose, Baltimore would still be the fifth seed, pushing the Chargers into the sixth seed should they win, or the Bills should Los Angeles lose. If the Titans win yet the Bills lose, than Tennessee would be the fifth seed, and the Ravens the sixth in a losing effort, based on conference record.
Should the Ravens win, or otherwise escape into the postseason, it will mark the first time in three seasons, since 2014, that they have managed to do so. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, Baltimore has missed the postseason in three of the past four seasons. They went to the playoffs in Joe Flacco’s first five seasons, culminating in a Lombardi Trophy.
Baltimore has also already secured its first winning season since 2014. They went 8-8 a year ago and 5-11 the year before. They went 10-6 in 2014, and yet only finished third in the AFC North, with the Steelers winning the division and the Bengals earning the top wildcard seed. But they upset Pittsburgh in the Wildcard Round before losing their next game.