Suggs tore his right biceps Sunday, leaving significant questions about whether he'll be able to help the Ravens the rest of the way. Suggs appears intent on trying to play through the injury, which wouldn't be unprecedented. Suggs, though, isn't at full strength as it is, thanks to Achilles' surgery in May that he returned from faster than anybody expected.
The Ravens are primed to get middle linebacker
Now 9-3 with a road matchup with the resurgent
The Patriots, Ravens and Denver Broncos all have 9-3 records, but New England sits in the second spot because of its conference mark (8-1). The Ravens are 8-2 against AFC foes, while the Broncos are 6-2, making them the fourth seed at this point.
The Ravens beat the Patriots in Week 3, and the Patriots defeated the Broncos in Week 5, but head-to-head won't be acceptable tie-breaking criteria until the Ravens and Broncos meet Dec. 16.
That will likely be a must-win game for both teams if they want to secure that No. 2 seed, which carries a first-round bye and a second-round home playoff game.
"We're still on course," Ravens coach
Here is a look at what's ahead for the AFC's current top four teams:
No. 1: TEXANS (11-1)
What's left: at New England (Monday); vs. Indianapolis (Dec. 16); vs. Minnesota (Dec. 23); at Indianapolis (Dec. 30)
Outlook: With at least a two-game lead over everybody else, victories over both the Ravens and Broncos and a perfect 9-0 conference mark, the Texans are in a prime spot. Barring a late-season swoon, they'll remain the AFC's top seed and make the conference playoffs go through Reliant Stadium.
However, their final four games are all against teams with at least a .500 record, including two against the surprising
A loss to the Patriots in this week's most-anticipated game Monday night would tighten things further. Still, the Texans couldn't be in much better position than they're in now.
No. 2: PATRIOTS
What's left: vs. Houston (Monday), vs. San Francisco (Dec. 16); at Jacksonville (Dec. 23); vs. Miami (Dec. 30)
Outlook: Through six weeks, the defending AFC champs were just 3-3 and looking vulnerable. But they haven't lost since, piling up six straight wins and averaging a mind-boggling 40.3 points per game.
Tom Brady and company figure to be significantly challenged over the next two weeks with games against the top-seeded Texans and the
A league-best 32-5 at home during the regular season since 2008, the Patriots still have a shot at the AFC's top seed but a win Monday would be a must.
No. 3: RAVENS
What's left: at Washington (Sunday), vs. Denver (Dec. 16); vs.
Outlook: A case certainly could be made that none of the top AFC teams need that first-round bye and at least one home playoff game as much as the Ravens do.
The Ravens are 4-2 on the road this season, but they've yet to come close to putting together a complete game away from M&T Bank Stadium, and quarterback
They may also have the toughest finish. They couldn't stop third-stringer
The Ravens will need to get through that stretch with three wins, one being over the Broncos, to have a shot at that No. 2 seed and first-round bye.
No. 4: BRONCOS
What's left: at Oakland (Thursday); at Baltimore (Dec. 16); vs. Cleveland (Dec. 23); vs. Kansas City (Dec. 30)
Outlook: Peyton's Manning's Broncos are on a similar surge as the Patriots, with seven straight wins and 30 or more points scored in six of those seven games.
With so much on the line, it's very hard to envision the Broncos stubbing their toe against the likes of the
With losses already on their resume to the Texans and Patriots, the Broncos can ill afford a loss to the Ravens. But it's probably important to remember that the Ravens haven't beaten a Peyton Manning-quarterbacked team since 2001.