Breaking Down the AFC Playoff Race – Where Do You Think The Ravens Fit In?

December 01, 2008 |

I don’t want to look too far ahead on the Ravens schedule, but I guess you could say that I’m drinking the purple kool aid on this breezy morning in Baltimore. The Ravens have positioned themselves for a realistic chance at making the playoffs by gathering their eighth win yesterday. Who would have though that four months ago?

Let’s take a look at the Ravens’ playoff competitors in the AFC. It’s a forgone conclusion that both Tennessee and Denver will win their respective divisions, and it’s highly probable that the New York Jets will take care of business in the AFC East. That leaves us with the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Miami Dolphins: these are the four teams that could keep the Ravens out of the playoffs based on tie-breaker scenarios in either the divisional race or the wild card. As of now, the playoff standings look like this:

1.Tennessee 10-1

2. Pittsburgh 9-3

3. New York Jets 8-4

4. Denver Broncos 7-5

5. Indianapolis Colts 8-4

6. Baltimore Ravens 8-4

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7. New England Patriots 7-5

8. Miami Dolphins 7-5

Now let’s break down the schedule and look at the remaining opponents, team-by-team, with my predictions as to how they will finish the season.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

vs. Dallas (WIN)

@ Baltimore (LOSS)

@ Tennessee (LOSS)

vs. Cleveland (WIN)

PROJECTED FINAL RECORD: 11-5

Indianapolis Colts:

vs. Cincinnati (WIN)

vs. Detroit (WIN)

@ Jacksonville (WIN)

vs. Tennessee (WIN) – The Titans should be resting their starters at this point

PROJECTED FINAL RECORD: 12-4

New England Patriots:

@ Seattle (WIN)

@ Oakland (WIN)

vs. Arizona (LOSS)

@ Buffalo (WIN)

PROJECTED FINAL RECORD: 10-6

Miami Dolphins:

@ Buffalo (In Toronto…in a Dome…WIN)

vs. San Francisco (WIN)

@ Kansas City (WIN)

vs. New York Jets (LOSS)

PROJECTED FINAL RECORD: 10-6

As you can see, many of the Ravens competitors have cupcake schedules compared to the gauntlet the Ravens have to go through during these next four weeks. Here are my projections for the Ravens (check back each week for my prediction blog where I’ll break down each game in a precise manner):

vs. Washington (WIN)

vs. Pittsburgh (WIN…because it’s in Baltimore and it’s so hard to beat a division team twice)

@ Dallas (LOSS)

vs. Jacksonville (WIN)

RAVENS PROJECTED FINAL RECORD: 11-5

So if things go according to plan, it starts to get tricky in the AFC North. Going off these projections, tie-breakers will come into play. For the Ravens and the Steelers, it would come down to common opponents because they would have identical W-L records and division records. By these projections, Pittsburgh and Baltimore would have identical common opponent records at 8-4. Also, the Ravens and Steelers would have identical conference records at 9-3, which would take us to the fifth tie breaker. Strength of victory calculates the combined winning percentage of teams that Pittsburgh and Baltimore have beaten. Considering the Ravens have beaten the Dolphins and the Raiders while the Steelers have beaten the Patriots and the Chargers, this would most likely place the Steelers atop the AFC North. Therefore, the playoff games would be played as they are set now, which would place the Ravens against Brett Favre and the New York Jets in the Meadowlands.

Of course, this is just my opinion, and this is also assuming the Ravens will win the games they are supposed to win in the up-coming weeks. Even if they lose a home game to either Pittsburgh or Washington, it would still put the Ravens at 10-6, ahead of both New England and Miami in the wild card race. Once again, the AFC playoff picture would remain the status quo. But that’s why they play the games on the field instead of on paper…

Still, it’s a very exciting time to be a Ravens fan…and here’s to hoping the Steelers stumble down the back stretch. Although, after watching them dismantle New England yesterday, that seems highly unlikely.

Cheers.

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