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Why playoff odds aren't in Ravens' favor

12/26/2013

In one line of thinking, the Baltimore Ravens have the best chance at making the playoffs among the four remaining contenders.

There are 16 scenarios involving the Ravens, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers, and seven of them result in the Ravens getting the last playoff spot in the AFC.

But when you break down the possibilities of what has to happen, the odds don't favor the Ravens. In fact, the Ravens have only an 18.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders.

To qualify for the playoffs, the Ravens need to win at the Cincinnati Bengals and either the Dolphins or Chargers have to lose. The Ravens would reach the postseason as well if the Dolphins, Chargers and Steelers all lose.

What works against the Ravens is they're the only team playing on the road, where they've struggled all season. The Dolphins, Chargers and Steelers are all at home and playing teams that either have a losing record or nothing to play for.

Let's break down the games and see why the Ravens need a lot of trends to get broken for them to clinch that wild-card spot:

New York Jets (7-8) at Dolphins (8-7): The Ravens are hoping the Jets continue to fight for coach Rex Ryan's job, and this is why the Dolphins losing is more plausible than the Chargers falling Sunday. The problem is, the Jets have been awful on the road this season. New York is 1-6 away from home and has lost its last three road games by double digits. There's a reason why the Dolphins are 6.5-point favorites.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at Chargers (8-7): If this game was played a couple of weeks ago, most would have predicted the Chargers losing. But the Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC and can't improve their standing by winning in San Diego. Because the Chiefs have to play next week, this is an opportunity for them to give their top starters a bye by resting them against the Chargers. History says this will happen. Kansas City coach Andy Reid faced this situation four times in Philadelphia -- in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2010 -- and each time he either limited his starters to a handful of snaps or sat them altogether. It's no surprise that the Chargers are favored by 9.5 points.

Cleveland Browns (4-11) at Steelers (7-8): The Browns have lost six straight games, and they haven't won at Heinz Field since 2003. Need we say more? The Steelers are 7-point favorites.

Ravens (8-7) at Bengals (10-5): Unlike last year's regular-season finale, Baltimore and Cincinnati both have something at stake. The Bengals can clinch a first-round bye if they beat the Ravens and the New England Patriots lose at home to the Buffalo Bills. The biggest reason why many don't give the Ravens much of a shot in this game is it's being played at Paul Brown Stadium. The Ravens are 2-5 on the road, and the Bengals are undefeated at home (7-0), beating teams by an average of 17.7 points. The Ravens have lost three of their past four games in Cincinnati, and quarterback Joe Flacco has a 51.1 passer rating (two touchdowns, six interceptions) there since 2009. The Ravens are 6-point underdogs Sunday.

By the looks of these games, the Ravens will need some of that late-season luck to reach the playoffs for a sixth straight season.