Ravens Can’t Clinch, But Steelers Can

Because the Steelers have won more AFC games for now, they hold a slim wild-card advantage.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Tuesday, December 6th, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink

The Ravens cannot clinch a playoff berth this weekend, but the Steelers can.

Huh?

Baltimore is a perfect 4-0 in the AFC North and sits atop the division because of two wins over the Steelers.

The Ravens are currently the No. 2 seed in the AFC while the Steelers are No. 5.

So how does this make any sense?

It’s because the Steelers have won more AFC games than the other playoff contenders (besides New England and Houston) and can pick up another this week.

Thus, even if Pittsburgh won Thursday night and lost its final three games to finish 10-6, it could win tiebreaker scenarios based on a better conference record, which is the second tiebreaker in wild-card battles behind head-to-head.

Pittsburgh currently has a 7-3 AFC record. It can move to 8-3 with a win over the Cleveland Browns this Thursday night.

At this point, the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans, and Oakland Raiders all have at least four conference losses. So if the Steelers win and they lose, the Jets, Bengals, Titans and Raiders would be guaranteed to have more conference losses at year’s end.

It’s a long shot, but here’s what would have to happen, if the Steelers win, for them to clinch:

1. CIN loss + NYJ loss + TEN loss OR
2. CIN loss + NYJ loss + DEN loss + OAK loss OR
3. CIN loss + TEN loss + DEN loss + OAK loss

The reason why the Ravens cannot clinch is because all four of their games are still within the conference.

The Ravens currently have a 6-2 AFC record. Thus, they could end up finishing with a worse conference record than other playoff contenders.

Make sense?

Here’s an easier scenario.

If the Ravens win their final four games, there is a very good chance (not quite guaranteed) that they would be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Baltimore, New England and Houston would all finish with 13-3 records if they all won out. The tiebreaker would be strength of victory.

That tiebreaker can’t be determined until the end of the season, but according to calculations by ESPN Stats & Information, the Ravens’ strength of victory is currently .574 (62-46), which is far ahead of the Patriots (.426, 46-62) and Texans (.380, 41-67).

Baltimore still has Indianapolis (0-12), San Diego (5-7), Cleveland (4-8) and Cincinnati (7-5) left on the schedule. So unless all four of Baltimore’s remaining opponents lose out, it has the best chance of winning the tiebreaker.

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