For the past two seasons, the Ravens and Steelers have finished with 12-4 records. Tiebreakers have decided the AFC North champion for 2010 and 2011.
That means the slightest advantage could determine whether a team is playing a wild-card game on the road, or staying home for its first playoff contest. ESPN's John Clayton believes the Ravens could lose their one-year edge against the Steelers because of the 2012 schedule:
They go from a .477 schedule in 2011 to a .523, a .46 change that could pull them down by two games from their 12-4 finish. Their .523 schedule is the fourth toughest in the league, tied with the St. Louis Rams.
The biggest difference between the schedules for the Ravens and Steelers is their opponents from the AFC East and AFC South. As the result of a first-place schedule, Baltimore faces the New England Patriots and Houston Texans. Pittsburgh gets to face the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans.