I gave a brief explanation of the Ravens’ updated playoff scenarios late last night following Pittsburgh’s loss at San Francisco, but considering the number of questions that I got both in the comments and on Twitter over the last 12 hours, I wanted to spell everything out here in a bit more detail.
Here’s where things stand right now:
The Patriots have the top seed in the AFC with an 11-3 record. The Ravens, Texans and Steelers are all tied for the No. 2 seed at 10-4, but because Baltimore holds head-to-head tiebreakers over Pittsburgh and Houston, they get that No. 2 spot. The Texans are No. 3, while the Steelers have the top wild card position.
Basically, in the simplest of terms, if the Ravens win out, they’re guaranteed at worst that No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and at least one home game.
The Ravens can also clinch at least that No. 2 seed this weekend if they beat Cleveland and both the Steelers and Texans lose. Pittsburgh is facing the 2-12 Rams, while Houston takes on the 1-13 (and red-hot) Colts on Thursday night.
Baltimore can still earn the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, but to get there, it needs some help.
First of all, the Patriots would need to lose at least one game, which would bring them back to the Ravens with four losses.
Complicating things here, however, is Houston, and here’s why: the Ravens have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Texans, but that tiebreaker only applies in the event of a two-way tie. If three teams are tied for a certain spot, the head-to-head tiebreaker is only good if one of the teams has beaten both of the other two.
The Ravens have beaten the Texans this season, but they haven’t played the Patriots. As a result, if all three teams finish the season tied - say, at 12-4 - then the head-to-head tiebreaker is bypassed, and Houston would get the No. 1 seed as a result of a superior conference record.
Baltimore would take the No. 2 seed, and the Patriots would fall all the way to No. 3.
Everybody got that? Good. There will be a quiz tomorrow morning.