I really hate raining on the Steelers parade after the team’s huge win over the Patriots this past Sunday. That win held off a possible doomsday playoff scenario for at least another week. However, a win this coming week may be equally important to the Steelers playoff chances. The team’s recent three game losing streak put them in a very bad position. That losing streak, combined with the Ravens winning four out of their last five has Pittsburgh in real danger of missing the playoffs. Let’s outline how this weekend’s games could turn tragic for the Steelers.
It starts Saturday night with the prime time game between the Ravens and the Chargers. Everyone assumes that the Chargers will win this game at home. If the Ravens and their number one defense pull out the upset, things get dicey for the Steelers. Facing the Saints in New Orleans is about as tough as it gets in the NFL right now. It can be rightfully assumed that the Steelers are going to drop this game. If all this plays out, Baltimore would be the division leaders with a home game remaining against the Browns. They would then be in the drivers seat for the AFC North title. Ok I know what you’re thinking, there’s still the wild-card right?
The answer to that is probably not. The wild-card race will most likely come down to either the Colts, Titans, and whichever team does not win the AFC North. Cleveland and Miami are still not mathematically eliminated, but need lots of help to jump back into playoff contention. Here’s the rub, both Indianapolis and Tennessee have very winnable games coming up this weekend. The Colts have a home game versus the hapless Giants, while the Titans have the Redskins and their third string quarterback at home on Saturday. So we are looking at the very real possibility that both teams are 9-6 coming out of week 16. If this does indeed happen, the Steelers would be eliminated from any wild-card contention. How is that possible you say? Here’s how. The Colts and Titans play each other in their final game of the season ensuring one of them would end up 10-6. Assuming the Steelers lose to New Orleans, the best they could be is 9-6-1.
All this would leave the Steelers down to only one option for a playoff bid entering the last weekend of the season. Pittsburgh would be left needing a win against the Bengals, and the Ravens to lose to Cleveland. Not exactly what we picture were 7-2-1 and had won six straight. Granted it’s a lot to go wrong to end up in this situation, but as you can see none of it is tough to imagine. The most unlikely of all of this is a Ravens win in Los Angles, but can we honestly guarantee a Chargers win? Pittsburgh can avoid all this mess with a win on Sunday, which would virtually ensure the AFC North title. The Steelers still control their own destiny, let’s hope they take advantage of that.