Baltimore Ravens Playoff Scenarios: What Must Happen After Week 15 Dud?

Nick KostoraContributor IIIDecember 16, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16: Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens walks across the field after losing to the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Three weeks ago the Baltimore Ravens seemed like a lock to make the playoffs, but now they are surrounded by question marks.

Sunday's 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos dropped the Ravens to 9-5 on the season and just one game ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North division.

The loss to Denver takes the prospect of a first-round bye completely out of the question, so what do the Ravens need to happen to ensure they get a Wild Card spot?

First, we must state the glaringly obvious. Baltimore needs to start winning again. Even after dropping three straight games, the Ravens can guarantee a playoff spot by beating both the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals in their next two games.

The Broncos, Houston Texans and New England Patriots have all clinched division titles. That leaves two Wild Card spots and the aforementioned AFC North crown.

The Indianapolis Colts have the fast track to one of those positions. The Colts sit at 9-5 and play the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16.

Now, assuming the Jets don't miraculously win their last three games and throw a tremendous wrench into the proceedings, the final two AFC playoff spots will be decided between the Ravens, Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

What makes this such an interesting situation is that there are multiple head-to-head matchups left in this group. The Ravens versus Bengals Week 17 showdown is huge, but it becomes even more important if the Steelers beat the Bengals next week.

There are a lot of moving parts to this predicament right now, but for the Ravens it would be ideal to see the Steelers have the worst record of the bunch.

Baltimore beat Cincinnati earlier this season and therefore holds a clear tiebreaker over the Bengals. The Ravens also hold the best divisional record of the three as they have a 4-1 record within the AFC North. Pittsburgh has a 2-2 division record while Cincinnati's is 1-3.

Baltimore could make everything easy on themselves and just win its last two games. But after seeing their performance in Week 15 against the Broncos and knowing that nothing is easy in this division, expect a tough road to the playoffs.