Although the Baltimore Ravens still have half of the season to play, their first-half record and recent history suggests they are a smart bet to make the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
Even with the injuries they've dealt with so far, the Ravens' roster is healthier than most in the NFL. Their typical momentum kicks in during December, so with all things considered, Baltimore is still a major contender in the AFC.
But how good can they be? Can they win home-field advantage throughout the playoffs? Or will a rough second half of the season cause the Ravens to get into the postseason via a wild-card berth?
If you follow the NFL, you know there are seemingly countless tiebreaker scenarios down the stretch of the season, even into the final week. For now, here's my take on what the odds are of the Ravens getting each seed.
As I wrote last week, I figure the Ravens to have a 25 percent chance of getting the AFC's top seed.
The main obstacle in their way is the Week 7 thrashing they received in Houston. In other words, even if Houston and Baltimore end up with the same record, the fact Houston beat Baltimore would give the Texans the edge.
The Texans have five (currently projected) playoff teams remaining on their schedule, but still play in a (comparatively speaking) easy division.
They only other real contender (right now) to the AFC's top seed is the Patriots, but the Ravens beat them in Week 3. So for now, surpassing and remaining in front of Houston is the goal for Baltimore.
As of now, the Ravens hold the second seed in the AFC playoffs. If they were to continue the trend they've established since the start of last season of winning their home games and going .500 on the road, they'd end up with a 12-4 record for 2012.
The 12-4 could get them a No. 1 seed, but between the Texans' loss and the Patriots' "easy" schedule, the No. 2 seed looks a lot more like the eventual reality.
A lot will depend on Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger getting pressure on the quarterback. They still have yet to face Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning.
Except for Griffin III, those aren't fast quarterbacks, so there should be some chances for the Ravens to help out their secondary with a solid pass rush.
If Baltimore doesn't end up with a first-round bye, I really don't see them slipping past the third seed, mainly because the top four seeds go to the division winners.
Since the Ravens control the path to a second straight AFC North championship, they would have to end up with a worse record than (probably) the AFC West champion. Last season, the Denver Broncos won the AFC West with an 8-8 record.
If the Ravens win the division, they will have to be better than the Steelers. If they want to be better than the Steelers, an 8-8 record and a division championship is a virtual impossibility.
Even if the Ravens did drop to the No. 3 seed, they'd still get a home game, but would miss out on that all-important bye week.
John Harbaugh is and has been a terrific coach, particularly when it comes to keeping his players focused on the next opponent.
The Denver Broncos are currently leading the AFC West with a record of 5-3. For Baltimore to get the No. 4 seed in the playoffs, the Broncos would obviously have to finish with a better record than the Ravens.
Although the Broncos' remaining opponents have a combined record of 23-42, Denver still has four divisional games left, as well as a road game against the Ravens in Week 15.
That game in Baltimore on December 16 will likely be the determining factor as to which team will hold the upper hand in a playoff tiebreaker situation.
Peyton Manning is 4-2 all-time in Baltimore (playoffs included). The Ravens know that, and will be determined to end his run of his four straight victories on their home field.
For the Ravens to get either a No. 5 or a No. 6 seed, they would have to avoid being the division winner.
Quite frankly, I don't see that happening.
The biggest threat to the Ravens winning a second straight division title is the Steelers. Those two teams will play twice in 15 days, with the first of the two games being on Sunday night, November 18.
In 2011, the Ravens had the Steelers' number and swept Pittsburgh by a total score of 58-27. While the Ravens have suffered a couple of key injuries this season, the Steelers are the more injured team.
Even if Pittsburgh won the rest of their games, they'd finish at 13-3. If the Ravens are projected to finish at 12-4, it would put them just one game behind the Steelers if the Steelers went 8-0 to finish the year.
I like the Ravens' chances in that scenario.