After losing the Saints and falling to 4-3, the Ravens’ path to a playoff spot now looks challenging. Being only one game over .500 definitely feels a lot shakier than when they were 4-2, and top five in many power rankings a week ago. Despite having all three divisional road games behind them, the road ahead remains difficult. Here is what the Ravens are facing, and what they need to do to make the playoffs.
Despite the fact that the Ravens will be on the road against a team with a better record, I think the Ravens are more likely than not to win this game. The Panthers have gotten away with some close wins, while all four of the Ravens’ wins were by at least 12 points. The Ravens have a far better point differential, and have a superior pass offense and defense in yards per play. Still, facing an above average team on the road is never easy. I’d give the Ravens around a 60% chance to win this game.
This time, the Ravens will be at home against a team that they appear to be better than, and one that they handily defeated on the road. There are, however, two concerning things about this game. One of which is the nature of this division rivalry: most games are close and could go either way. Another is that the Steelers have the 7th best passing game in the NFL in terms of yards per play. As the Ravens found out on Sunday, a team with a great passing game can play with anyone, even if their defense is suspect. Still, being at home against a slightly inferior team should mean close to a 60% chance of a Ravens victory.
The Ravens suffered their worst loss of the season in week 2 at Cincy. They shouldn’t let that happen again. The Bengals lost a close game against the Steelers, and got crushed by KC in the past 2 weeks. This is why Cincy is currently sitting at a negative point differential. The Ravens have struggled against the Bengals in the past, and could lose this game, but I doubt it: they’ll get their revenge. 70% chance that the Ravens win this.
Vs Raiders and Bucs
I’m doing these games together because they’re extremely similar: both home games against bad teams. Both teams, however, do have the same threat: a pass offense that has moved the ball reasonably well, but has turned it over too often instead of scoring touchdowns. The fact that both gain more yards per pass play than average adds some concern here, but I’ll still give the Ravens an 85% chance to win each of these games. I wish I were a bit more confident, but the Ravens have a nasty habit of having the occasional inexplicable loss. Any given Sunday, as the saying goes.
This game should absolutely scare the Ravens, as they go on the road against one of the NFL’s greatest underachievers, and most underrated teams. The Falcons have the 6th best pass offense in yards per play, and only have 4 turnovers in 7 games. Their pass defense is 5th from the bottom, but they still out-pass their opponents on the net. The Ravens just narrowly lost to a similar type of team at home, and this game is in Atlanta. Despite all my warnings, the Ravens are a better team than the underachieving Falcons. Even on the road, I give the Ravens a 50% chance of winning this.
This is one of two remaining games where I would definitely consider the Ravens underdogs. Not only do they have to play on the road, but they go up against the NFL’s most potent offense. Patrick Mahomes and his arsenal of playmakers will be the ultimate test for the Ravens defense, at least in the regular season. The Ravens are a good team, but a win here is unlikely. I’ll give the Ravens a 30% chance at winning this.
…And this is the other one. The Chargers are basically the Falcons of the AFC: a team with a great QB, and sometimes with good defense, that always underachieves. To go off on a tangent, its a terrible shame that Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger will make the Hall of Fame first ballot. Rivers, Ryan, and Romo will all probably stay out, despite consistently leading better offenses, putting up better numbers, and playing the position better. This year’s Chargers are a bit better than this year’s Falcons, and have actually been winning their close games for once. They’ve also been doing this without Joey Bosa, who will probably be back this late in the season. Still, there’s a reason that this team is trailing the Chiefs in the division. The Ravens will have a slightly better chance of coming away with the win here: probably 35%-ish.
Heading into week 17, the Ravens might well be facing a win or miss the playoffs scenario like thy did last year. Fortunately for them, they get the Browns at home. Rookie QB Baker Mayfield has been okay for the Browns, but the offense has still struggled with him. The Ravens offense had a major wipeout in Cleveland earlier this season, and they will be sure not to let that happen again with the playoffs on the line. Browns at home should not scare any competent team, and the Ravens will not let getting swept by the Browns keep them from the playoffs. 90% chance of Ravens victory.
So where does this put the Ravens? It puts 10-6 as the most likely outcome, followed by 9-7. With the estimates I made, the Ravens’ average win total would be 9.65. This puts the Ravens playoff status up in the air, though I would say they are a bit more likely than not to make the playoffs. If they exceed my expectations and win 11 games, they’re in. 10 wins usually gets in, though one 10 win team misses most years. 9-7 still gives them a shot at the playoffs as well. The Ravens are far from playoff locks, but are a very good team, and have an inside track to the playoffs despite a difficult schedule.