- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Baltimore Ravens (6-6) currently hold the No. 6 and final playoff seed in the AFC. While I don't see the Ravens or any other of the wild-card contenders winning their final four games, I still believe someone will get the second wild-card spot with a 9-7 record.
The Ravens have a tough road ahead with their final four opponents having a combined 27-20-1 record. After playing host to the last-place Minnesota Vikings, the Ravens face three division leaders: at the Detroit Lions, home against the New England Patriots and at the Cincinnati Bengals.
So, with the final month of the regular season upon us, who represents the biggest threat to take the last wild-card spot away from Baltimore? Let's take a look at the contenders:
• The Miami Dolphins (6-6) have difficult two games coming up, playing at the Pittsburgh Steelers and home against the Patriots. If they lose both of those games, it likely won't matter that they finish against the fading Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.
• The Tennessee Titans (5-7) have the easiest remaining schedule among AFC teams with six or seven losses. Their final four opponents have a combined 22-26 record. But, like the Dolphins, the Titans could lose the next two weeks (at the Denver Broncos and home against the Arizona Cardinals), which would essentially put them out of the running before playing at the Jacksonville Jaguars and home against the Houston Texans.
• The New York Jets (5-7) have lost three straight games and look like a team that is finished. They have two games against last-place teams (home against the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns), but it's hard to believe the Jets can beat anyone the way they're playing now.
That leaves the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers. These are the two teams to watch.
• The San Diego Chargers (5-7) get three home games this month, and they play up to the level of their competition. Some may write off the Chargers because they have to play at Denver and home against the Kansas City Chiefs. But it was only last month when San Diego lost to Denver by eight points and upset Kansas City. The Chargers also have home games against the Raiders and New York Giants.
• The Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) play three of their final four regular-season games at home, just like the Chargers. The only team with a winning record left on the schedule is the Bengals, who have to play at Heinz Field. The only road trip is to Green Bay, where the key will be whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from a collarbone injury. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Monday that there are no guarantees Rodgers will play again this season. Pittsburgh finishes the season against the last-place Browns at home.
It doesn't really matter what these teams do if the Ravens take care of their business. The defending Super Bowl champions can earn a playoff berth if they win their final four games. But, if they lose one or more games, they lose control of their playoff fate.