Ravens' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 16

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2021

Ravens' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 16

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    Week 16 is going to be a crucial one for the Baltimore Ravens' playoff chances. 

    Going into the weekend, they have a 56 percent chance to get into the final field and a 39 percent chance to win the division, per FiveThirtyEight

    How much those odds shift is going to be largely dependant on what the Ravens do in the divisional matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. They will get the chance to avenge their 41-17 loss from earlier in the season and desperately need to snap their three-game losing streak. 

    All three losses have come by two points or less, and Lamar Jackson has been out of the lineup with an ankle injury that has kept him out of practice this week. If the Ravens find a way to win, their playoff chances go up to 84 percent with a 74 percent chance to win the AFC North. 

    If the Ravens suffer another loss, those odds go down to 34 and 11 percent, respectively. 

    Of course, Baltimore will also be rooting for some other outcomes that could boost their chances. With five teams sitting at 8-6 essentially vying for four playoff spots, there is a logjam in the AFC picture right now. 

    Here are some results that would help the Ravens out. 

Cardinals over Colts

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    One thing that should be on every Ravens fan's Christmas wishlist is for the Arizona Cardinals to get back on track. They have an important matchup with an Indianapolis Colts team that has the fifth seed with an 8-6 record. 

    With the Titans coming back and beating the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday Night Football, their chances of winning the division took a hit. Now they are one of Baltimore's main competitors for a wild-card spot. 

    If this game were being played earlier in the season, it would be considered a tough draw for the Colts. Even with Jonathan Taylor having a dominant season the Cardinals appeared to be the best team in the NFL with one of its best defenses early in the season. 

    After a 7-0 start, the Cardinals are just 3-4 in their last seven games. That includes a 1-2 stretch since the bye week where they got Kyler Murray back from injury and still have a loss to the Detroit Lions

    Conversely, the Colts are 5-1 in their last six games and seem to have found the recipe for their success. They are coming off a 27-17 win over the New England Patriots in which they still won by double-digits despite just 57 passing yards from Carson Wentz. 

    This might be the only chance the Ravens have of getting a game ahead of the Colts. They have the Raiders and Jaguars to end the season. 

Patriots over Bills

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    A competitive AFC East finish between the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills does the Ravens no good. As it stands, the Patriots have a one-game lead over the Bills, a head-to-head tiebreaker and a tentative grip on the No. 3 seed. 

    That will all come crashing down if they don't take care of business in the rematch. 

    That wouldn't be an ideal situation for the Ravens as it would all but guarantee the AFC East will occupy two of the seven playoff spots. 

    Instead, the Ravens should be hoping the Patriots take a more commanding lead. That would secure a playoff spot for the Patriots that the Ravens can't win anyway while pushing the Bills down in the wildcard race. 

    The Pats won the first meeting between the two teams, but it was hardly a matchup that we can take anything away from. The two teams played in a wind storm, and the Patriots only attempted three passes while the Bills passing game struggled to get a rhythm between New England's defense and the weather. 

    ESPN's FPI nearly has the game as a toss-up, with the Bills at 51.6 percent chance to win the game. 

    With Damien Harris potentially coming back from a hamstring injury, the Pats rushing attack should be back to full strength and give them a chance in this game. 

Chiefs over Steelers

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    The AFC North has been a hotly contested race all season. Case in point, the Cleveland Browns would have been the division leader if they found a way to beat the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night. 

    Instead, they lost on a last-second field goal, putting them in last place in the division with little chance of getting back in the playoff race. 

    The same thing will be said of the Steelers if they don't beat the Kansas City Chiefs. Finding a way to beat Patrick Mahomes and Co. isn't an easy task. 

    After some early-season struggles, the Chiefs have ripped off the league's longest winning streak at seven games. Mahomes hasn't been at his best all season, but he's coming off a 410-yard performance in a shootout with the Chargers

    Unfortunately, it's unclear how close to full strength they will be on game day against the Steelers. They have been hit hard by COVID-19, with 13 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list—including Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill among other starters. 

    While some players could still test negative and get back on to the active roster, the protocols have kept the Chiefs from a normal week of game prep, so it's hard to gauge how much that will affect the outcome.