We'll delve into the matchup more closely throughout the week, but let's take a look at how the AFC North race is stacking up with just three games to go. It's hard to believe that the Ravens have hung so tough and are right there as we head down the home stretch, but that's what winning streaks of four and three (current) will do for you. In fact, the Ravens have won 7 of 8 since losing three in a row to fall to 2-3. Let's see how the rivals schedules compare:
PITTSBURGH (10-3): @ Baltimore, @ Tennessee, Cleveland
BALTIMORE (9-4): Pittsburgh, @ Dallas, Jacksonville
Scenarios not involving Extensive Tie-Breakers:
PITTSBURGH Wins Division If...
1) They win on Sunday vs. Baltimore - we would own the head-to-head 2-0 with Baltimore. They could get no higher than 11 wins, which we would already be at.
BALTIMORE Wins Division If...
If you didn't vomit all over your work space by the mere thought of that reality, carry on and...
BALTIMORE Wins Division If...
1) They win out and Pittsburgh loses out. Sounds unlikely until you remember that there are only two games after our head-to-head matchup, one of them being against the league's best team...on the road. Remember though, this puppy is over if Pittsburgh wins on Sunday, regardless of what happens in the final two games proceeding that.
Scenariors involving Tie-Breaker Procedures: (hat tip to Concomitandt for helpful fanpost)
PITTSBURGH Possible Outcomes (assuming L @ Baltimore)
1) Pittsburgh 10-6 (L @ Baltimore, L @ Tennessee, L vs. Cleveland)
2) Pittsburgh 11-5 (L @ Baltimore, W @ Tennessee, L vs. Cleveland)
3) Pittsburgh 11-5 (L @ Baltimore, L @ Tennessee, W vs Cleveland)
4) Pittsburgh 12-4 (L @ Baltimore, W @ Tennessee, W vs. Cleveland)
BALTIMORE Possible Outcomes (assuming W vs Pittsburgh)
1) Baltimore 10-6 (W vs. Pittsburgh, L @ Dallas, L vs. Jacksonville)
2) Baltimore 11-5 (W vs. Pittsburgh, W @ Dallas, L vs. Jacksonville)
3) Baltimore 11-5 (W vs. Pittsburgh, L @ Dallas, W vs. Jacksonville)
4) Baltimore 12-4 (W vs. Pittsburgh, W @ Dallas, W vs. Jacksonville)
And The Winner Is?
Let's go through those possible scenarios to see who the winner would be in each instance (determining tie-breaker rule in parentheses)
1) Both teams tied at 10-6 - Winner = Baltimore (Divisional record)
2) Both teams tied at 11-5 -
A) With Pittsburgh loss to Cleveland, Winner = Baltimore (Divisional Record)
B) With Pittsburgh win vs. Cleveland, and BAL Loss vs JAX, Winner = Pittsburgh (Conf. record
3) Both teams tied at 12-4 - WINNER = Pittsburgh (Conf. record)
So there ya have it. We can put the champagne on ice this week and slam the door shut on Baltimore's chances with a victory against the hated Ravens. But if they were to win their fourth in a row and snap our winning streak, the Ravens would have more than a fighting chance. The AFC East may have gotten more convoluted, but the rest of the AFC picture came into sharper focus this weekend. Looks like the Colts are in good shape. Provided they beat the Lions at home (which they will, a win at Jacsonville or vs. Tennesse will get them in. As for the second WC spot, Baltimore would still have a great chance provided they beat Jacksonville to finish with an 8-4 AFC mark. The Jets, Pats and Fins are either 6-4 or 5-5 in AFC play, and one of them of course has to be the divisional winner, not to mention the fact that there are multiple inter-division matchups left in the crowded East.
So really, this is hardly a must-win game for either team. The stakes are plenty big, that's for sure. But neither team's hinges rests too squarely on the outcome.
Let's just end the debate and let the Ratbirds focus on that Wild Card chase. What better team to keep the winning streak alive against, as well?? At NE, vs. Dallas, then at Baltimore?? You serious? Talk about a dream lineup to mow down on route to a divisional championship and hopefully more.