Ravens playoff picture: How Baltimore can clinch AFC wild-card spot in Week 18

The Ravens started the season 8-3 and looked like the team to beat in the AFC North. Yet they have collapsed for the past five games, all defeats, and now face an uphill battle to make the postseason.

The Bengals wrapped up the AFC North with a win over the Chiefs last week, so now the Ravens’ only hope is to clinch the final AFC wild-card spot. They will need to win to stand a chance, but they rely on many other results to help them get there.

The team is also dealing with numerous injuries. They have lost key players in the secondary, a full stable of running backs and Lamar Jackson, who recently dealt with an ankle injury. Baltimore has also lost a couple of games by one point thanks to two-point failed late conversions, so if they had converted at least one of them, their chances of making the postseason would be better.

Baltimore is still alive in the race for the playoffs, but they are definitely long shots. Here’s what needs to happen for the Ravens to make the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

1. The Ravens must beat the Steelers

Obviously, the Ravens need to win to make the playoffs. After all, they are 8-8 and trailing several teams in the AFC wild-card race. That includes the team they’re playing against, the Steelers, who are 8-7-1.

The Ravens lost by one point to Pittsburgh earlier in the season after Lamar Jackson failed to connect with Mark Andrews in a possible two-point conversion to win the game. They will be looking for revenge on this one. If they can win the 1 p.m. ET game, they may have a chance to stay in the AFC playoff race at least a little longer, though they’ll need some help jumping to the bottom wild-card spot.

2. The Chargers and Colts must lose

The second element of this equation for the Ravens is to create a three-way tie with the Chargers and Colts for the final playoff spot.

The NFL tiebreaker rules for three-way ties can get complex, but in this case, they are simple. The Ravens have beaten both the Chargers and Colts head to head. As such, they’ve completed a “season sweep” of the two, and that would catapult them ahead of both and secure them at the No. 7 seed for the postseason.

Of course, that may be easier said than done. The Chargers are slightly favorites over the Raiders, so maybe they could lose, but the Colts are 15.5-point favorites over the Jaguars. Indianapolis hasn’t won at Jacksonville since 2014, so history may be on the Ravens’ side there, but the 2021 Jaguars have won just two games and are on an eight-game losing streak. Still, at least it is possible.

3. The Dolphins must lose or draw against the Patriots

This is the last tough issue for the Ravens. If they can win and see both the Chargers and Colts lose, they won’t be guaranteed a playoff spot. They still need the Dolphins not to beat the Patriots.

Why is that? Well, if the Dolphins win, they will be 9-8, forcing a four-way tie for final playoff spot with the Colts, Chargers, Ravens and Dolphins. The Ravens would no longer own the tiebreaker, as they lost head-to-head to Miami, thus not maintaining the “sweep of the season” over all three teams. Instead, the Colts, who would hold the conference’s top record at 7-5, would.

To sum it up, the Ravens can make the playoffs. It may be difficult for them to do so, as three other teams are in control of their destiny.