Ravens playoff picture: How Baltimore can clinch AFC wild-card berth in Week 17

The Baltimore Ravens control their own playoff destiny in Week 17. A win against the Cincinnati Bengals would send Baltimore back to the NFL posteason.

The Ravens (10-5) enter Week 17 in possession of the No. 6 seed in the AFC. Thanks to an expanded playoff field, seven teams make the postseason from each conference. Baltimore could finish anywhere from the No. 5 to the No. 8 seed in the AFC, so Sunday’s game with the Bengals is vitally important.

The Ravens are competing for the wild card spots with the Titans, Colts, Browns and Dolphins, as well. While one of Tennessee/Indianapolis will claim the AFC South title, there’ll still be four teams vying for three wild card spots in Week 17.

Here are the various ways Baltimore can clinch a playoff spot in Week 17.

1. Ravens win against Bengals

This is the easiest way for Baltimore to make it to the postseason for sure, and it shouldn’t be that hard to pull off. The Bengals have been playing better of late, which Ravens head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged in a Monday press conference. Cincinnati even beat Deshaun Watson and Houston in Week 16. But Lamar Jackson is a huge advantage over Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen. 

When these teams met on Oct. 11, Baltimore won, 27-3. That was with Joe Burrow healthy. Now both Burrow and Joe Mixon are out for the season, leaving Cincinnati severely undermanned for Week 17.

The Bengals also have much less to play for. If anything, a loss aids their 2021 draft position. Of course the players on the field won’t be playing to lose, but the Ravens certainly have more riding on this game.

2. Browns lose to Steelers

Although the Browns are playing for their playoff lives and the Steelers are just playing for seeding after clinching the AFC North in Week 16, Cleveland could certainly lose this game. Pittsburgh came back from 17 points down in the second half to beat the Colts in Week 16, a huge momentum boost for the Steelers.

The biggest thing that could work in Cleveland’s favor is a limited amount of seeding mobility for Pittsburgh, which could lead to Mike Tomlin choosing to rest some key contributors. That would aid the Browns in bouncing back from a loss to the Jets.

If the Browns and Ravens both tie, that would also clinch a Baltimore playoff berth.

3. Colts lose to Jaguars

This is highly unlikely, as the Jags have nothing to play for after clinching 2021’s No. 1 overall pick and the right to select Trevor Lawrence.

Philip Rivers has been very good on his one-year contract for the Colts. When these teams played in November, Indianapolis won handily, 33-13.

The Ravens can also make the postseason if they and the Colts both tie.

The two other tie scenarios Baltimore is involved in require a Ravens tie and a loss by either the Titans or Dolphins. 

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