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AFC playoff picture and how it affects the Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens in the battle of the AFC North yesterday.  With their convincing win over the Giants, the Steelers move to 7-5 on the season.  The Ravens hold the tie breaker as it stands today, but Pittsburgh controls it’s own destiny.  They can win the North simply by not losing any of their remaining four games.  Here’s a look at the standings and remaining games for the contenders:

EAST

1. PATRIOTS (10-2) – Ravens, @Broncos,  Jets, @Dolphins

2. DOLPHNS (7-5) – Cardinals, @Jets, @Bills, Patriots

3. BILLS (6-6) – @Steelers, Browns, Dolphins, @Jets

NORTH

1. RAVENS (7-5) – @Patriots, Eagles, @Steelers, @Bengals

2. STEELERS (7-5) – @Bills, @Bengals, Ravens, Browns

SOUTH

1. TEXANS (6-6) – @Colts, Jaguars, Bengals, @Titans

2. TITANS (6-6) – Broncos, @Chiefs, @Jaguars, Texans

3. COLTS (5-6) – @Jets, Texans, @Vikings, @Raiders, Jaguars

WEST

1. RAIDERS (10-2) – @Chiefs, @Chargers, Colts, @Broncos

2. CHIEFS (9-3) – Raiders, Titans, Broncos, @Chargers

3. BRONCOS (8-4) – @Titans, Patriots, @Chiefs, Raiders

The simplest way for the  Steelers to make the playoffs is to win out, and take the AFC North division title.  This would likely make them the three seed, which would in turn have them facing the wild card team with the worst record.  If you are looking for a wild card scenario for Pittsburgh, that is a much tougher road.  Assuming the Patriots and Raiders win their divisions and get the byes, the group of wild card contenders are Chiefs, Broncos, Dolphins, and to a lesser extent the Bills.  Realistically none of the teams from the South will have much of a shot at a wild card spot, but stranger things have happened. In my estimation the Chiefs are a lock for one wild card spot.  They are playing great and have 3 of their final for at home.  The Broncos, on the other hand, are struggling and have a brutal schedule to finish out.  With an injured Trevor Siemian, Denver could easily fall out of the playoffs.  Miami has a reasonably tough schedule as well,  and they are coming off a drubbing at the hands of the Ravens.  To sum up, to get a wild card birth Pittsburgh would essentially need the Broncos to loose three out of four, while needing the Dolphins to loose at least two out of their last four.  Ironically, Steeler fans should root hard for……gulp…….the New England Patriots, as they play all the teams Pittsburgh needs losses from.

As far as tie breakers go, as it stands it’s not pretty for Pittsburgh.  They are 2-1 in the north, and 5-3 overall in the AFC.  They have key head to head losses to the Ravens and Dolphins. What’s worse is Baltimore is 4-0 in the North and 6-1 in the AFC .  Meaning a tie with them is almost certainly going to go in the  Ravens favor.  The Steelers do have a head to head win over Kansas City, but at 9-3 its unlikely the Chiefs would end up tied with the Steelers.  The bottom line really is that Pittsburgh can not afford to loose another game this season.  Another AFC loss, especially to the Ravens, would make it nearly impossible to make the playoffs.  Fortunately for the Steelers they are not relying on anyone else at this point.  If they take care of their own business, a playoff spot is there for the taking.

 

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