9-5 is a reasonably solid record with two games left to play in a season, especially when the schedule remaining is as favorable as it is for the Baltimore Ravens. Still, you want to have at least another win or two on top of that at this point, and the reality is that the Ravens do not control their destiny in terms of making the playoffs.
They need held, via other teams losing, but the odds favor them getting some of that help. The other teams from whom they can stand to benefit seeing lose have a much tougher schedule than they do…and two of those teams are the Indianapolis Colts and the Cleveland Browns, the final two opponents of the 2020 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In other words, break out those Terrible Towels, Ravens fans.
Still, they have to take care of their own business, first and foremost. But their final two opponents are teams with losing records—and without starting quarterbacks. Daniel Jones is expected to remain sidelined for the New York Giants, and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals has been missing for a while after suffering a torn ACL.
Of course, there are ways for Baltimore to get in even if the Steelers lose out. The Miami Dolphins are one such source of much-needed leverage. The Dolphins are tied with Baltimore in record but have a better conference record, and thus own the tiebreaker.
But their final two games are against the Las Vegas Raiders, who have trailed off some but are still a team capable of pulling out a win, an the Buffalo Bills, whom the Steelers found out are a pretty damn good team this year.
Because they won the series sweep over the Browns, the Ravens only need to win one more game than Cleveland does over the last two weeks in order to make the playoffs ahead of them. That loss could come to Pittsburgh in the finale. Or, less likely, it could come from the New York Jets this week.
Ultimately, though, there is one team that could give them the most help, and that is Pittsburgh. If the Steelers win either of their final two games, they not only guarantee themselves the AFC North title, they also ensure that the Ravens have a clear path to the postseason, provided that they win their own games.
That is because they also own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Colts. And even if the Colts, Browns, and Ravens all finish 11-5, the Ravens would advance via tiebreakers. You first settle divisional opponents, which Baltimore would win over Cleveland, and then the head-to-head win over Indianapolis comes into play.