Until Sunday, the Ravens had the most wins in the AFC. They’re still figuring out what that means, exactly.

“I know the goal is to get in the playoffs, get to the Super Bowl, but I think first seed gets a bye and home-field advantage, right?” safety Kyle Hamilton asked after the Ravens’ last game, a 20-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12 that pushed their record to 9-3. “I’m new, so I think that’s the rule.”

It is, indeed. But the Ravens are a long way from securing the AFC’s top seed. Not even AFC North supremacy is a sure thing.

According to The New York Times’ playoff picture, the Ravens head into Sunday’s Week 14 game against the visiting Los Angeles Rams with only about a 28% chance of earning home-field advantage and an 86% chance of winning their division.

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That’s as much a testament to the AFC’s crowded race as it is the Ravens’ vaunted schedule. The Miami Dolphins joined the Ravens at 9-3 with a win Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars are a game back at 8-4, and division rivals Cleveland and Pittsburgh, who also lost over the weekend, are two games back at 7-5.

If the Ravens finish atop the AFC, it will be because they bested the conference’s best — and perhaps the NFC’s best, too. After Sunday’s matchup with the Rams, who have won three straight to jump back into the playoff mix, the Ravens will end the season with home games against the AFC East-leading Dolphins (Week 17) and Steelers (Week 18) and road games against the AFC South-leading Jaguars (Week 15) and NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers (Week 16).

Entering Sunday, no team had a harder remaining slate, according to FTN’s DVOA rankings. Coach John Harbaugh called it the “toughest schedule in football for the next five weeks.”

So where do the Ravens go from here? Here’s how their homestretch sets up.

Schedule

  • Week 14 (Sunday): vs. Rams (1 p.m., Fox)
  • Week 15 (Dec. 17): at Jaguars (8:20 p.m., NBC)
  • Week 16 (Dec. 25): at 49ers (8:15 p.m., ABC)
  • Week 17 (Dec. 31): vs. Dolphins (1 p.m., CBS)
  • Week 18 (Jan. 6 or Jan. 7): vs. Steelers (TBD)

The Ravens already have a Week 15 spot on “Sunday Night Football” and a Week 16 spot on “Monday Night Football.” That might not be the end of their prime-time appearances, though. If the Ravens’ Week 17 game against Miami is “flexed” out of its early-afternoon slot and into “Sunday Night Football,” a decision would be announced no later than Christmas Day. The Minnesota Vikings are currently scheduled to host the Green Bay Packers that night.

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If Ravens-Dolphins is somehow flexed into “Monday Night Football,” the Ravens would have to play on even shorter rest than normal. Because of an NFL scheduling quirk, the “Monday Night Football” game for Week 17 — currently a Dallas Cowboys-Detroit Lions showdown — will be played Dec. 30, a Saturday. That announcement would come no later than Dec. 18.

In Week 18, the Ravens could play the Steelers on Saturday in a late-afternoon (4:30 p.m. kickoff) or prime-time slot (8:15 p.m.) on Saturday. They could also play on Sunday in the early-afternoon (1 p.m.), late-afternoon (4:25 p.m.) or prime-time slot (8:20 p.m.). Dates, start times and networks for Week 18 matchups will be announced after the end of Week 17.

Power ranking

From least difficult to most difficult, here’s how the Ravens’ remaining opponents stack up.

5. vs. Rams

Sean McVay entered training camp with 36 rookies on his 90-man roster. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp has missed four games with a hamstring injury and hasn’t recaptured his Pro Bowl form. The offensive line remains a bottom-half-of-the-NFL unit. And yet the Rams are 6-6, with a surprisingly efficient offense. When quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receivers Puka Nacua and Kupp and running back Kyren Williams have been on the field together, they’ve averaged 6.9 yards per play, according to TruMedia, which would be one of the NFL’s best marks.

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Defensive lineman Aaron Donald is the biggest star on an otherwise anonymous, relatively young defense. That unit could be rounding into form just in time for a playoff push. After giving up 43 points to the Cowboys in Week 8, the Rams have allowed just two touchdowns in consecutive games against the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Browns.

4. vs. Steelers

No team has had the Ravens’ number in recent years quite like Pittsburgh. The Steelers are 6-1 in the series since 2020, with quarterback Lamar Jackson missing four potential starts in that span. The Ravens’ Week 5 loss in Pittsburgh was perhaps their biggest missed opportunity. Not only did Ravens receivers drop ball after ball, but the Steelers won with the since-fired Matt Canada calling plays and without seven starters, including wide receiver Diontae Johnson, tight end Pat Freiermuth and defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.

Ravens wide receiver Zay Flowers demonstrates his frustration during the team's loss in Pittsburgh this season. (Jessica Gallagher/The Baltimore Banner)

Kenny Pickett, who hurt his ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals and reportedly could miss several weeks, is easily the worst starting quarterback on the Ravens’ remaining schedule. Still, Pittsburgh is well positioned to test their pressure points. The Steelers’ downhill rushing attack, led by running back Jaylen Warren, has been one of the NFL’s best in recent weeks and wore down the Ravens in their October meeting. So did their pass rush, and the emergence of rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. has helped patch up the secondary.

3. @ Jaguars

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Jacksonville has been the AFC South’s best team this season, as expected, thanks to an unexpected star: its defense. A year after finishing 23rd in defensive DVOA, the Jaguars were fifth entering Sunday, with the NFL’s highest-rated run defense. Outside linebacker Josh Allen has a team-high 12 sacks, former Raven Darious Williams has emerged as one of the NFL’s best outside cornerbacks, and inside linebackers Foyesade Oluokun and Devin Lloyd make up one of the NFL’s best duos at the position.

A disappointing offense was also finally heating up — but that was with the help of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who hurt his ankle Monday night and whose return timetable is uncertain. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley entered Week 13 coming off the best two-game stretch of his debut season in Jacksonville (12 catches for 192 yards and two touchdowns). With an ineffective run game and banged-up offensive line limiting the offense’s margin for error, the Jaguars have needed Lawrence to salvage drives.

2. vs. Dolphins

Miami’s offense has returned to the stratospheric heights it reached over the season’s first month or so. A return to health at key spots has certainly helped. Rookie running back De’Von Achane, who’s played just twice since early October, was back in action in Sunday’s win over the Washington Commanders, when his rushing average fell to 9.5 yards per carry. Left tackle Terron Armstead has played in four straight games, though he’s left the past two with injuries. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has struggled against complex defenses, but star wide receiver Tyreek Hill is explosive enough to create the kind of big plays the Ravens have clamped down on this season.

A rejuvenated defense, meanwhile, has helped Miami overcome some recent bumpy days on offense. The Dolphins rank first in success rate since Week 8, according to RBSDM.com. Outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips’ season-ending Achilles injury is a blow to their pass rush, but Miami has a bevy of big-name players, including defensive end Christian Wilkins, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Jevon Holland. Vic Fangio-led defenses tend to finish better than they start, too.

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1. @ 49ers

San Francisco’s offense might be the NFL’s best overall unit. The 49ers ranked first in passing DVOA, third in rushing DVOA and second in yards per play — and that was before they tore up the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. They have elite performers at every skill position: Quarterback Brock Purdy leads the NFL in completion percentage; running back Christian McCaffrey is an NFL Most Valuable Player candidate; and wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle are all matchup problems. San Francisco’s only losses this season came during a three-game stretch in which Samuel and star left tackle Trent Williams were largely sidelined by injuries.

The 49ers’ run defense is vulnerable, but their offense is so prolific that opponents often have to play catch-up through the air. That’s where San Francisco’s elite pass rush, headed by ends Nick Bosa and Chase Young and tackles Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead, causes headaches. If the Ravens can’t stop Purdy or protect Jackson, it could be a long Christmas night.

Quarterback Brock Purdy and running back Christian McCaffrey are part of the San Francisco 49ers' elite group of skill players. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Playoff forecast

The Ravens don’t have anything locked up yet. According to the Times, here’s how their approximate playoff odds would change depending on their final record. (Probabilities are, in some cases, presented in a range, as wins against AFC opponents are generally more beneficial than wins against NFC opponents.)

9-8

Playoffs: 26%

No. 1 seed: Less than 1%

Top-four seed: 1%

Yes, even if the Ravens lose out, they’d still have a shot at making the postseason. But with the caliber of contenders in the AFC, it wouldn’t be a great one.

10-7

Playoffs: 75% to 99%

No. 1 seed: Less than 1%

Top-four seed: 9% to 59%

If the Ravens win just one game down the stretch, they’d be well served to make it the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh. With that lone victory over the Steelers, they could still claim the AFC North title.

11-6

Playoffs: More than 99%

No. 1 seed: Less than 1%

Top-four seed: 48% to 92%

Two wins would just about lock up a playoff spot. But, once again, unless one of those two wins is against the Steelers, the Ravens could fall out of the top four.

12-5

Playoffs: 100%

No. 1 seed: Less than 1% to 28%

Top-four seed: 88% to 96%

In this scenario, beating the Steelers matters, but so does beating the Dolphins and Jaguars, especially if the Ravens want any decent shot at the AFC’s top seed.

13-4

Playoffs: 100%

No. 1 seed: 21% to 80%

Top-four seed: 100%

If the Ravens take just one AFC loss down the stretch, they’d be better off if the Steelers handed it to them. With the Dolphins and Jaguars also vying for home-field advantage, a head-to-head loss would loom large in tiebreaker scenarios.

14-3

Playoffs: 100%

No. 1 seed: 100%

Top-four seed: 100%

With the Chiefs’ loss Sunday night, the Ravens control their playoff future. Win out, and they’d get the No. 1 seed.

Playoff tiebreakers

What happens if the Ravens tie for the AFC North title? That depends on whom they’re tying and how they’ve finished the season. Because the Ravens split their season series with Cleveland, their next three tiebreakers would be, in order, winning percentage in division games, winning percentage in common games and winning percentage in conference games.

If the Ravens and Steelers finish atop the division, Pittsburgh would win the tiebreaker if it completes the series sweep. If not, the same tiebreakers would apply.

If the Ravens, Browns and Steelers are all even, the first tiebreaker would be their winning percentage in games among the teams. (Pittsburgh currently has the best mark, at 2-1.) The next tiebreakers would again be, in order, winning percentage in division games, winning percentage in common games and winning percentage in conference games.

What happens if the Ravens tie for first in the AFC? If it’s with an AFC North opponent, the same tiebreakers would apply. If not, head-to-head results and conference records would take precedence. A Ravens win over the Dolphins or Jaguars, for instance, would give them the tiebreaker.

If the Ravens tie the Chiefs, though, the tiebreaker would be winning percentage in conference games. (The Ravens are 6-3 in the AFC; the Chiefs are 6-1.) If that’s not decisive, the next tiebreakers would be, in order, winning percentage in common games (a minimum of four), strength of victory in all games and strength of schedule in all games.