Breaking Down Every Potential Playoff Matchup for the Baltimore Ravens

Mike Fast@@michaelfast1Contributor IDecember 10, 2012

Breaking Down Every Potential Playoff Matchup for the Baltimore Ravens

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    With three games remaining in the regular season, the Ravens' performance and their goals are not on the same wavelength.

    Since Week 13, Baltimore has lost two games in which they had a touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. They need to, as John Harbaugh said after the Redskins game, "find a way to finish the game better."

    As of this moment, the Ravens are 9-4 and hold the fourth playoff seed in the AFC. If they beat Denver next week and New England loses either this week and/or next week, then Baltimore will be the No. 2 seed. In other words, as bad and as hopeless as things have seemed, the Ravens are still a big favorite to win their division, and have a very good shot at getting a first-round bye.

    If Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs return next week, that would obviously be a huge lift to the team. But even despite those and other injuries, the Ravens were in very good position to win both of their last two games, and didn't.

    They could be 11-2 (or even 12-1), but they are 9-4.

    While the Ravens still have yet to technically clinch a playoff spot, it's just about a foregone conclusion that they will do just that for the fifth straight season.

    Here are the Ravens' potential playoff match ups and how they might fare.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Current record and playoff seed: 7-6 (2-2), No. 6 seed

    Previous meeting this season: Week 11: 13-10 (W), Week 13: 23-20 (L)

    Potential playoff match-up: Wild Card round in Baltimore

    Analysis: Seven of the last nine games between the Ravens and the Steelers have been three-point games. Baltimore is 4-3 in those seven games.

    These teams are similar. The game will be close. But this season, the Ravens have the better record (both in the division and overall) and have a much better shot at a home game in the playoffs.

    Therefore the edge now goes to the Ravens, but as proven in Week 13, the game might seem like it is won before the opponent ends up handing over the first home loss in 16 (regular season) games.

Indianapolis Colts

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    Current record and playoff seed: 9-4 (3-1), No. 5 seed

    Previous meeting this season: N/A

    Potential playoff match-up: Wild Card round in Baltimore

    Analysis: Of all the potential playoff teams the Ravens could face, the Colts are the team they won't play in the regular season.

    Through Week 14, Andrew Luck has played good football and led his team well. He's also thrown 18 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Before this week the Colts' defense was ranked 21st in the league.

    How are they doing it? It seems like a bunch of mediocre football with a handful of fortunate bounces.

    If these two teams were to meet in the playoffs it would likely be during in Baltimore during the Wild Card round.

    Luck is impressive and it seems certain he will get better. But if he has to come from behind on the road in the playoffs, will he be able to?

    The Colts could win on the road in the playoffs. The Ravens have won on the road in the playoffs.

New England Patriots

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    Current record and playoff seed: 9-3 (5-0)

    Previous meeting this season: Week 3: 31-30 (W)

    Potential playoff match-up: AFC Championship game in Baltimore

    Analysis: How good are the Patriots?

    Heading into Week 14, they were leading the league in offense in both yards per game (426.2, 10.1 more than the next team) and in points (430, 55 more than the next team). They also lead the league in turnover margin (+24, with the next closest mark being +14).

    The Patriots have lost three games this season by a combined four points.

    Since 2010 (playoffs included), the Patriots are 21-3 at home.

    They are fueled by Tom Brady and Wes Welker, two dynamic running backs and an opportunistic defense. They are the definition of the team no one wants to face in the playoffs.

    If these two teams do meet in the AFC Championship (which is most likely because of how close together they are seeded), emotion, adrenaline and payback would be the only place that the Ravens would have a clear advantage.

Denver Broncos

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    Current record and playoff seed: 10-3 (5-0), No. 2 seed

    Previous meeting this season: N/A (Denver plays at Baltimore in Week 15)

    Potential playoff match-up: Divisional round in Denver

    Analysis: How Peyton Manning is playing this well after not playing a down of football last year I still don't know.

    The winner of this Week 14 match-up will very likely receive a first-round bye in the playoffs. If you've watched the Ravens this year, you know that time off is vital.

    The Broncos are 10-3 and are undefeated in the AFC West. While that division seems to have more ineptitude than playoff experience, 10-3 is 10-3.

    In his career (playoffs included), Manning is 8-2 against the Ravens, winning the last eight games in the series (4-0 at home, 4-2 in Baltimore).

    Having Ray Lewis back next week will, if nothing else, be an intellectual equalizer for the Ravens.

    Traveling to Denver in the playoffs when the Broncos will likely (in that scenario) be coming off of a bye week is not an attractive option for Baltimore.

    Fortunately, the Ravens can break through that barrier with a win at home in Week 15.

Houston Texans

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    Current record and playoff seed: 11-1 (4-0), No. 1 seed

    Previous meeting this season: Week 7: 43-13 (L)

    Potential playoff match-up: AFC Championship game in Houston

    Analysis: Nothing was pretty (for Baltimore fans) about the Texans smashing the Ravens in Week 7. It was a statement game for Houston who until that point had never beaten Baltimore.

    The Texans are one of the two best and most well-rounded teams in football. But as we all know, the playoffs are what matter.

    The Ravens beat the Texans in the playoffs last year, 20-13. If Matt Schaub was the quarterback instead of T.J. Yates, the result may have been different.

    After the Patriots, the Texans are the team the Ravens don't want to face; not only because of Houston's players but also because the game would most likely be in Houston.

    Baltimore is 3-1 all-time in Houston. Two of those three wins were by six points or less.

    This is not to say the Ravens can't beat the Texans in Houston. Any team can be beat. But while the Ravens are a strong running team, they will need to play much better in the passing game (protection, route-running, accuracy) than they have been playing to get a win anywhere, much less in the playoffs.