With three weeks left in the NFL season, the playoff races are really heating up. The Pittsburgh Steelers now have a one game lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. Unfortunately this doesn’t change a whole lot for the Steelers playoff chances. The Christmas day clash between these two rivals remains the key factor in deciding which team wins the division. If Pittsburgh were to lose that game, they would give up the key head to head tie breaker with the Ravens. The only thing the one game lead does is give the Steelers a mulligan in this weeks game versus the Bengals. They can now afford to loose that game, and still win the division if they were to win out. Here are the remaining games for the playoff contenders:
1. PATRIOTS (11-2) @Broncos, Jets, @Dolphins
2. DOLPHINS (8-5) @Jets, @Bills, Patriots
3. BILLS (6-7) Browns, Dolphins, @Jets
1. STEELERS (8-5) @Bengals, Ravens, Browns
2. RAVENS (7-6) Eagles, @Steelers, @Bengals
1. TEXANS (7-6) Jaguars, Bengals, @Titans
2. TITANS (7-6) @Chiefs, @Jaguars, Texans
3. COLTS (6-7) @Vikings, @Raiders, Jaguars
1. CHIEFS (10-3) Titans, Broncos, @Chargers
2. RAIDERS (10-3) Chargers, Colts, @Broncos
3. BRONCOS (8-5) Patriots, @Chiefs, Raiders
The slim chances of Pittsburgh getting a wild card got a bit better after this weeks games. The Broncos loss could open the door a crack for the Steelers to sneak in. Denver has a brutal remaining schedule, they play the three best teams in the conference in New England, Kansas City, and Oakland. The way they are playing, the Broncos could easily find themselves 8-8 and out of the post season. Miami dodged a bullet when it was found that quarterback Ryan Tannehill did not tear his ACL. This injury could still cause him to miss some games, which could hurt the Dolphins playoff hopes. Pittsburgh loses the head to head tie breaker with Miami, so they’d need to finish a game ahead in order to better the Dolphins. The Titans and Texans also have an outside shot at the wild card now. Tie breakers between Pittsburgh and these two teams are hard to determine at this point. The Steelers are now 6-3 in the AFC, while Houston is 5-3 and the Titans are 4-5. The next tie breaker would be common opponent, which the Steelers have the edge on Tennessee but not on Houston. That tie breaker can still change with the teams remaining schedules. Bottom line is Pittsburgh still controls it’s own destiny, but can not afford a slip up the rest of the way.
Losing to Bengals/Browns would give Ravens the 2nd tie breaker, record within the division. Steelers need to to win out, or hope that Bengals win against Ravens.
They could lose to one of the Browns/Bengals so long as they beat the Ravens. They have a 1 game lead