Warning: Do not continue reading if you’re currently taking mood stabilizers or experience severe depression when your favorite football team fails.
For over a month, I’ve been harping on the fact that the margin of error for the Pittsburgh Steelers was increasingly small. After disgracing themselves against the Cleveland Browns, the playoff window might as well be officially closed. Except, it’s not. After another crazy weekend of NFL action, the Steelers are technically still alive.
Well, on paper anyway.
The AFC playoff race has been extremely tight in recent years. In 2007, the Browns went 10-6 and still missed the Wild Card. Last season, the Patriots finished 11-5 yet found themselves sitting at home come playoff time. While I consider that moment of Schadenfreude fitting payback for Peepin’ Bill and the Fighting Belicheats, it does tell you how stacked the AFC has been.
However, it looks like this year may be different. A quick glance at the current standings posted above reveals a log jam of 7-6 and 6-7 teams. No fewer than seven teams are currently tied or a game out of the final Wild Card spot. While there’s always the chance somebody catches fire and wins out, it more likely appears that a 9-7 team will sneak in to the post season.
This means all your Steelers have to do is run the table. Then they need some help. Without going into all the possible playoff scenarios, I will say current #6 seed Jacksonville has to play Indianapolis and New England the next two weeks. Assuming they flame out, that leaves things wide open for the rest of us. Remember, the Steelers hold a head-to-head victory over Tennessee and face Miami in week 17.
Of course, conference record is going to be key. When more than two teams or two teams that haven’t met face-to-face are tied, they go to AFC record as the first tiebreak. Miami and the Jets are currently one game better in conference than the Steelers. Tennessee is a game behind. Baltimore appears to be the biggest threat. Their conference record is two games better than Pittsburgh plus they have a head-to-head win. Even if the Steelers win the rematch, they won’t be able to leapfrog the Ratbirds unless either Chicago or Oakland knocks them off.
This is all crazy speculation and wild fantasy, though. The Steelers aren’t going to make the playoffs. Know how I can be so sure that the Black and Gold will find a lump of coal in their postseason stocking? Look at the bottom of that playoff chart, right below where it says, “Eliminated.” What do all the teams already out of the race have in common?
They’ve all beaten the Steelers.
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