The Baltimore Ravens are stuck in an unenviable position at the end of the regular season. They not only need to win their final two games to earn a playoff berth, but they also need a little help from around the league as well.
The Ravens have games against the 5-9 New York Giants (Week 16) and 3-10-1 Cincinnati Bengals (Week 17) remaining. That’s not the hardest schedule, though both teams should have enough left in the tank to be potential trap games if Baltimore isn’t careful. But with some scoreboard watching to do to secure a playoff spot, it can be a little convoluted to follow along.
We’ve done all the math to help you figure out which teams you need to be cheering for and which ones should earn your biggest jeers. With just two weeks remaining, it’s crunch time for the Ravens, so let’s get right to it.
Indianapolis Colts (10-4) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3)
Scott Horner/IndyStar photo illustration via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Who to root for: Steelers
Let's get the hardest scenario out of the way. It's actually one of the easiest mathematically, but telling a bunch of Ravens fans to root for AFC North rival Pittsburgh is like asking them to drink bleach (don't actually drink bleach please). The Steelers have looked dreadful in recent weeks, especially quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With three straight losses, Pittsburgh went from Super Bowl contenders to people wondering if the Steelers will fall to the basement in the coming years. They've already secured a playoff spot and the Kansas City Chiefs have all but claimed the No. 1 seed, so these final two games are more of a tuneup opportunity than anything else. That's not the case for Indianapolis, who is riding the playoff bubble right now. Thanks to the Ravens beating the Colts in Week 9, Baltimore holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. That means if Indianapolis loses this week and the Ravens win, Baltimore will put a temporary claim on the No. 7 seed and just need to win in Week 17 to cement themselves into the playoffs.
Cleveland Browns (10-4) vs. New York Jets (1-13)
Who to root for: Jets
This is probably the most farfetched possibility in Week 16. Though New York did just beat Pittsburgh last week, that seems to be more the Steelers losing than the Jets winning. And as much as Ravens fans might not want to say it, the Browns are finally holding tight and looking like the team we've been hearing they were for decades now. But it is a possibility that needs to be discussed. If Cleveland overlooks New York, they could be in for a rude awakening. Likewise, if the Jets have finally found themselves and begin playing better, this game might not be nearly as easy as everyone thinks. If the Browns lose this game, the Ravens would move back into the playoff seeding. Thanks to Baltimore sweeping Cleveland this season, they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning both teams sitting at 10-5 would put the Ravens in the driver's seat. It also sets up an opportunity for the Browns to get completely knocked out of the playoffs in Week 17, which would be devastating for the team after looking like near locks to make the cut.
Miami Dolphins (9-5) vs. Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)
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Who to root for: Raiders
Once in the hunt for the playoffs themselves and actually ahead of the Ravens at one point, back-to-back losses have all but eliminated the Raiders from contention. Baltimore winning this week will boot Las Vegas from playoff contention, regardless of how the rest of the league shakes out. But the Raiders can do the Ravens a solid by taking care of business on their own. If the Dolphins lose to the Raiders in Week 16, they'd fall to 9-6 on the season, one game behind Baltimore's hypothetical 10-5 record. That would push the Ravens into the No. 7 seed with only one more game remaining.
Tennessee Titans (10-4) vs. Green Bay Packers (11-3)
Who to root for: Packers
This scenario wouldn't bring immediate happiness to Baltimore but it is one that should be paid attention to. The Titans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Ravens thanks to a Week 11 win. That means Baltimore would need to have a game lead over them in the final standings to take their playoff seed. With a 10-4 record right now and two games remaining, Tennessee has to lose out to finish at 10-6 while Baltimore needs to win out to finish 11-5, giving them that one-game lead needed. The Titans close their season out against the Packers and Houston Texans -- two games that are far from automatic wins. For Week 16, we're all rooting for Green Bay to take care of business and get the Ravens one step closer to the playoffs.