A look at Week 12 games that can help or hurt Ravens

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

A week after con­fu­sion and un­cer­tainty swirled around their sea­son, the Ravens are in a bet­ter place: hold­ing on to the AFC’s sec­ond and fi­nal wild-card berth, with a home game against the dou­ble-digit-un­der­dog Oak­land Raiders up next.

With a win Sun­day, the Ravens (5-5) would keep their dis­tance in the play­off race from the glut of teams nip­ping at their heels. A loss, how­ever, would knock them from the No. 6 seed and back into the pack. Con­sid­er­ing the road tests that still await, that would be an un­wel­come de­vel­op­ment in Bal­ti­more.

Here’s where they can get some help in Week 12:

With their Week 11 win over the Ben­gals (5-5), the Ravens avoided hav­ing to cede the all-im­por­tant head-to-head tiebreaker. They’re now ahead in the play­off pic­ture be­cause of their su­pe­rior di­vi­sion record (2-3). With a loss to the Browns, Cincin­nati would fall to 1-3 in AFC North play with games at Cleve­land and the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers re­main­ing.

At 7-3, the Charg­ers are two games ahead of the five-team 5-5 traf­fic jam in the AFC wild-card race, with most com­puter pro­jec­tions giv­ing them a 90-plus per­cent chance of mak­ing the post­sea­son. The Ravens don’t have to pass the Charg­ers if they want the No. 5 seed; they just have to catch up to them, record-wise, and win their Week 16 matchup in Los An­ge­les.

The Ravens play nei­ther 5-5 team this sea­son, mean­ing a po­ten­tial tiebreaker would come down to their record in con­fer­ence play. The Ravens are 5-3 against AFC op­po­nents, while the Dol­phins and Colts are 4-3 and 4-4, re­spec­tively. A Mi­ami win would de­rail one of the NFL’s hottest teams — In­di­anapo­lis has won four straight — while a Colts win would knock the Dol­phins to .500 in AFC play. The for­mer is prob­a­bly prefer­able for Ravens fans.

Op­ti­mists should root for the Bron­cos (4-6), as a Steel­ers loss would give the Ravens an open­ing to close the gap in the AFC North. Pes­simists should root for the Steel­ers (7-2-1), who have won six straight games and can all but crush Den­ver’s wild-card hopes with an­other.

It’s a three-team race in the AFC South be­tween the Tex­ans (7-3), Ti­tans (5-5) and Colts (5-5). A Hous­ton win would drop Ten­nessee un­der .500 be­fore the Ti­tans em­bark on a very man­age­able three-week stretch, with games against the New York Gi­ants, Jack­sonville Jaguars and New York Jets up­com­ing. Im­por­tantly, the Ravens al­ready have the head-to-head tiebreaker against Ten­nessee.

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