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Who to root for in Week 13 if you are a Baltimore Ravens fan

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Who to root for in Week 13 if you are a Baltimore Ravens fan

There is a crowded AFC playoff bubble right now and the Baltimore Ravens are the one team standing at the top. 

Baltimore (6-5) is fortunate enough to have their playoff destiny in their own hands. Win out and they are in the postseason, at the very least they are a Wild Card team. 

Nipping at their heels heading into Week 13 are five other teams. Leading the charge are the Indianapolis Colts, one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Baltimore will have to be on their marks to prevent the Colts from overtaking them. Right now the Ravens have only a slight edge in AFC record at 6-3 against the Colts' 5-4 AFC record.

Don't count out the division title either for the Ravens as the Pittsburgh Steelers have a horrid schedule on their plate. Win the division and higher seeds quickly come into play. But, before we get to talking about higher seed it's time to worry about this week. 

Ravens Week 13 Rooting Guide

Buffalo Bills (4-7) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-6)
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 1:00 p.m.

An easy decision here as Buffalo has the worse record and the Ravens already hold the tiebreaker over the Bills. The Dolphins are only a game behind the Ravens for the final spot in the AFC and are well within striking range. These two squads, the Bills and the Dolphins, will meet again in Week 17 and they each have the New England Patriots one more time on their schedule. Root for the Bills.

Indianapolis Colts (6-5) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8)
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 1:00 p.m.

Aside from them having the best record of the teams on the outside looking in, Indianapolis should be the team the Ravens are the most scared of. No. 1 they have Andrew Luck. No. 2 they have an easier schedule than Baltimore. The combined record of the Colts' remaining opponents is 25-30. The Ravens' opponents are 29-25-1. Jacksonville is no longer a threat in the Wild Card race, root for the Jaguars.

Cleveland Browns (4-6-1) vs. Houston Texans (8-3)
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 1:00 p.m.

Either way this one turns out would not be the end of the world for the Ravens. That is assuming the Ravens believe they still have a shot at the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Steelers have a rough stretch of games to end the season, which Baltimore would need to pass first. Then, the Texans are only two games up on Baltimore. Getting to the playoffs is the first priority though and the Ravens do not have any wiggle room. Cleveland is 1.5 games back and has the head-to-head tiebreaker over Baltimore. They should be a bigger concern so root for the Texans in this matchup.

Denver Broncos (5-6) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 1:00 p.m.

Baltimore wants neither of these two teams since both of them are a mere game out of the Ravens. Holding the Week 3 victory over the Broncos in the Ravens' pocket is the difference. Cincy and Baltimore both split the season series, so the next tiebreaker will be the divisional record. Root for the Broncos, despite them being one of the hottest teams in the AFC right now. 

Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) vs. Oakland Raiders (2-9)
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4:05 p.m.

An Oakland loss or a Baltimore win will end the Raiders' faint postseason hopes. They are no threat to the Ravens so just root for the Raiders in case something crazy happens down the stretch.

New York Jets (3-8) vs. Tennessee Titans (5-6)
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4:05 p.m.

Building a wedge between the Ravens and the other teams on their tail is always a good thing. Baltimore has the tiebreaker over Tennessee already but they don't want it to come to that. Root for the Jets.

Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1) vs. New England Patriots (8-3) 
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 4:25 p.m.

There is no reason to not root against the Patriots. They are playing a NFC team so there is nothing for the Ravens to lose if they root for the Vikings this week.

Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)
Sunday, Dec. 2 at 8:20 p.m.

If you are reading this we're assuming you're a Ravens fan so you don't need a reminder that the world is always better when the Steelers lose. That still should be the focus, but it would not be the end of the world if the Chargers fell in this matchup. Root for the Chargers.

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NFL Playoff Picture: Predicting the AFC playoff bracket heading into Week 13

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NFL Playoff Picture: Predicting the AFC playoff bracket heading into Week 13

The AFC playoff picture is a full-blown race to the finish line heading into Week 13.

Besides a few shoo-ins, the final playoff spot could belong to a handful of teams.

Here's a look at the AFC playoff bracket with five games to play.

AFC Playoff Standings:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-2, 3-0)

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have been a force to be reckoned with throughout the 2018 season, and considering they're 5-0 at home, their remaining schedule is very much in their favor.

It'd be tough to see the Chiefs ending anywhere but the top.

Remaining Games: @Raiders (2-9), Ravens (6-5), Chargers (8-3), @Seahawks (6-5), Raiders (2-9).

2. New England Patriots (8-3, 3-1)

To the surprise of no one the Patriots are once again leading the AFC East. 

Even with three of their last five games division matchups, expect to see the Patriots in January.

Remaining Games: Vikings (6-4-1), @Miami (5-6), @Steelers (7-3-1), Buffalo (4-7), Jets (3-8)

3. Houston Texans (8-3, 3-1)

After starting their season 0-3, the Texans are on a hot streak winning their last eight games. 

With three very winnable games - against the Browns, Jets and Jacksonville - get ready for DeShaun Watson in the postseason.

Remaining Games: Browns (4-6), Colts (6-5), @Jets (3-8), @Eagles (5-6), Jacksonville (3-8)

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1, 3-1-1)

That late fourth quarter interception Big Ben threw against the Broncos Sunday could come back and haunt them seeding-wise with upcoming matchups with the Chargers, Patriots and Saints.

Heading into Week 13, the Steelers have a 93% chance of making the playoffs and an 86% chance of winning the division according to the New York Times' NFL Playoff Simulator.

Remaining Games: Chargers (8-3), @Raiders (2-9), Patriots (8-3), @Saints (10-1), Bengals (5-6)

5. Los Angeles Chargers (8-3, 2-2)

The Chargers have a tough road ahead of them, but could easily move up in the standings.

Philip Rivers completed his first 25 passes in the team's 45-10 win over the Cardinals Sunday, and they have won seven of their last eight. Running back Melvin Gordon is considered week-to-week with an MCL sprain, but the Rams aren't the only hot team in LA right now.

Remaining Games: @Steelers (7-3-1), Bengals (5-6), @Chiefs (9-2), Ravens (6-5), @Denver (5-6)

6. Baltimore Ravens (6-5, 2-3)

Several factors will go into whether or not the Ravens make the postseason for the first time in three years.

Who do they stick with at quarterback? Can they close out several easy matchups? Just to name a few.

It's truly week-to-week for this team as they fight for the final spot.

Remaining Games: @Falcons (4-7), @Chiefs (9-2), Buccaneers (4-7), @Chargers (8-3), Browns (4-6)

In The Hunt:

7. Indianapolis Colts (6-5, 2-1)

Andrew Luck is officially back - he threw three touchdowns in each of his last four games and 32 so far this season.

Expect Comeback Player of the Year for the QB even if the Colts don't make it to the playoffs

Remaining Games: @Jacksonville (3-8), @Texans (8-3), Cowboys (6-5), Giants (3-8), @Tennessee (5-6)

8. Tennessee Titans (5-6, 2-2)

Currently in a two-game losing streak, the Titans round out their season against fairly easy opponents. 

The Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Titans for the final spot.

Remaining Games: Jets (3-8), Jacksonville (3-8), @Giants (3-8), Redskins (5-6), Colts (6-5)

9. Miami Dolphins (5-6, 2-1)

The Dolphins' chase to the postseason will be a tough one after losing to the Colts 27-24 Sunday. Two wins against the Bills won't boost them in the division much.

Remaining Games: Bills (4-7), Patriots (8-3) @Vikings (6-4), Jacksonville (3-8), @Bills (4-7)

10. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6, 1-3)

The Bengals are on a three-game losing streak, and with QB Andy Dalton done for the season with a thumb injury, the postseason looks far-fetched. 

Remaining Games: Broncos (5-6), @Chargers (8-3), Raiders (2-9), @Browns (4-6), @Steelers (7-3)

11. Denver Broncos (5-6, 2-2)

The Broncos' road to January football will be an uphill battle, but with their last two wins coming against the Chargers and Steelers, suddenly they've got the AFC's attention.

Remaining Games: @Bengals (5-6), @Niners (2-9), Browns (4-6), @Raiders (2-9), Chargers (8-3)

12. Cleveland Browns (4-6, 2-1-1)

The Browns' season is already considered a success with four wins (which is four more than they had last season) and a fiery, young QB leading the way. Their playoff chances are very slim, but to be considered in the hunt is an accomplishment for this 2018 squad.

Remaining Games: @Texans (8-3), Panthers (6-5), @Broncos (5-6), Bengals (5-6), @Ravens (6-5)

13. Buffalo Bills (4-7, 1-1)

The Bills are on a two-game winning streak (!) but they came against the Jaguars and the Jets. They have a one percent chance of making the postseason.

Remaining Games: @Miami (5-6), Jets (3-8), Lions (4-7), @Patriots (8-3), Miami (5-6)

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8, 0-3)

The Jags just benched quarterback Blake Bortles, so you could say things aren't going well down south.

Remaining Games: Colts (6-5), @Titans (5-6), Redskins (5-6), @Miami (5-6), @Texans (8-3) 

15. New York Jets (3-8, 0-4)

The Jets haven't won a division game, so the odds are certainly not in their favor.

Remaining Games: @Titans (5-6), @Bills (3-8), Texans (8-3), Packers (4-6), @Patriots (8-3)

16. Oakland Raiders (2-9, 0-3)

The Raiders' season ended a while ago.

Remaining Games: Chiefs (9-2), Steelers (7-3-1), @Bengals (5-6), Broncos (5-6), @Chiefs (9-2)

Eliminated: No one

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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