The Baltimore Ravens have regained control of the AFC North, a home playoff game and a first-round bye, courtesy of a 20-3 victory by the San Francisco 49ers over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Just one night after the Ravens let their slim lead in the AFC North slip away from them in a loss to the San Diego Chargers, the Steelers had a golden opportunity to take sole possession of first-place in the division, but failed to do so.
Now, if the Ravens win their final two regular-season games, the worst case scenario would be finishing as the AFC’s No. 2 seed. Baltimore (10-4) could end up finishing with the same record as the Steelers (10-4) and Texans (10-4), but Baltimore would finish ahead of both teams because they own the head-to-head tiebreakers.
The only other time in franchise-history the Ravens have received a first-round bye and have gone into the postseason as the AFC’s No. 2 seed was in 2006.
If the Ravens take care of business this Saturday at home against the Cleveland Browns (4-10), combined with losses from Pittsburgh and Houston, Baltimore would clinch a first-round bye. Houston plays at Indianapolis (1-13) on Thursday night, while Pittsburgh plays host to St. Louis (2-12) on Saturday.
Had Baltimore not fallen to the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens would’ve guaranteed themselves the AFC’s top seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs had they won out.
There’s still an outside shot Baltimore could finish as the conference’s No. 1 seed, but the Ravens must win their last two remaining games and New England (11-3) has to lose at least once. New England’s last two regular-season games are at home against division rivals, Miami and Buffalo.