How the Baltimore Ravens' Loss Shakes Up the AFC North

Alex PetermanCorrespondent IIIDecember 3, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 02:  Kicker Shaun Suisham #6 (C) of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates in front of cornerback Asa Jackson #25 of the Baltimore Ravens with holder Drew Butler #9 and  Heath Miller #83 after hitting the game winning field goal as time expired to give the Steelers a 23-20 win over the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday may have huge implications for the AFC North down the stretch.

It certainly has the potential to.

The Ravens had the opportunity to win the AFC North with a victory over the Steelers combined with a Bengals loss. They just needed to take care of business against an injury-plagued team using its third-string quarterback. 

However, not only did the Bengals come back to defeat the San Diego Chargers, but Baltimore failed to hold up its end of the bargain, losing 23-20 on a 42-yard field goal as time expired.

No big deal, right? The Ravens will just get it next week, or the one after that. 

The problem for the Ravens is that their schedule seems to be stacked against them at this point. After traveling to the nation’s capital to battle the Redskins, the Ravens take on three straight tough opponents in the Denver Broncos, New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals. Two of those games are away from home, including the season finale.

At 9-3, they currently hold a two-game lead over both the Steelers and Bengals in the division. They also hold the tiebreaker within the AFC North against those teams. 

However, is it impossible to see the Ravens losing at least two or three of their final four games?

Baltimore needs to win two games to win the division. That would mean the best that the Steelers or Bengals could do is potentially tie the Ravens in record at 11-5 if both win out. That’s theoretically speaking since Pittsburgh and Cincinnati face off at Heinz Field in the penultimate game of the season.

For both the Steelers and Bengals, it provides some interesting new opportunities. If either of them wins out, and Baltimore continues to falter in its play like the last two games, the division could potentially be up for grabs come the final week.

That means if the Bengals beat the Steelers in Week 16 and Baltimore in Week 17 and Baltimore loses two other games, Cincinnati will claim the division crown.

Likewise, if the Steelers defeat Cincinnati, and the Bengals defeat the Ravens at home, it could open the possibility of a Steelers division title and one of the other two teams grabbing the wild-card spot.

Just a week ago, this didn’t seem possible. Most figured that the Ravens would win an easy game at home against Pittsburgh and would be just a small victory away from winning the AFC North. 

Now, Baltimore’s play against some of the NFL’s elite may decide its fate. Because the Steelers or Bengals will certainly be there if the Ravens falter.

And if they aren‘t able to win the games that they need to, the last two weeks (Bengals at Steelers, Ravens at Bengals) could be quite interesting.

AFC North fans: Let’s have some fun. Roll the dice.