If Ravens clinch Sunday, still lots to play for

If Ravens clinch Sunday, still lots to play for
November 28, 2012, 12:00 am
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As pointed out in Pro Football Talk, five NFL teams can clinch playoff berths this weekend, and the Ravens are one of them. In fact, they are one of four that can clinch a division title.

If the Ravens beat the Steelers and the Bengals lose to the Chargers, Baltimore wins the AFC North with four games remaining to play.

But that certainly doesn’t mean the Ravens would be left with nothing to play for down the stretch. They want to be able to skip the first week of the playoffs, but the Ravens are only one game ahead of two other division leaders, the Broncos and Patriots. However, having beaten New England this season, the Ravens hold the tiebreaker, so they’re actually two games up on the Pats.

The same scenario works in reverse for the Ravens in regard to the Texans, who hold the AFC’s best record — and the home field for the playoffs that goes with it — by one game over Baltimore, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker edge by virtue of their blowout defeat of the Ravens.

So the Ravens need to run the table for the rest of the regular season and hope that somewhere in Houston’s last five games — road matchups against the Titans, Patriots and Colts, home games against the Colts and Vikings — there lie two losses.

Perhaps more than anyone else in the NFL, the Ravens would benefit from hosting playoff games. With the goal of postseason dates at M&T Bank Stadium as a path to the Super Bowl, the Ravens will have plenty of incentive left even if the AFC North is theirs with a month left in the season.