The Steelers in the final stretch of the NFL season, coming off a bye week, need a strong finish to clinch a playoff berth.
After 11 weeks the Steelers are tied with the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans for the best record in the AFC at 7-3. But to get home field, they must finish the season with a better record than the Ravens after losing twice to their arch rivals.
The Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend 31-24 to move even with the Steelers, after losing to the lowly Seattle Seahawks. Because the Ravens haven’t been consistent, they could possibly lose one or two games over the final six, which means the Steelers need to finish 5-1 or no worse than 4-2 in their final six.
They will come off their bye this weekend against the surprisingly poor Kansas City Chiefs, who after winning their division last season, are 3-7 and falling. This road game is followed by two tough home games versus the Bengals (6-4) and the Cleveland Browns (4-6), then they go on the road to face the most surprising team of the season, the San Francisco 49ers who have the second best record in the NFL at 9-1, just one game behind the undefeated Green Bay Packers. They wrap up the season at home versus the lowly St. Louis Rams (2-8) and the Browns again.
If they play the kind of ball they are capable of they could be 6-0, but most likely 5-1, losing to the 49ers or Bengals. Can’t see them losing to both.
The Ravens face the 49ers this week on Thanksgiving day at home, then finish the season with the Browns, Colts (0-10), Chargers (4-6), Browns, and the Bengals in the final game of the season. They should easily lose two games, the 49ers, Bengals or Chargers are the likely victors, but the way the Ravens have been playing it may be the Browns or Colts.
AFC division leaders are the Patriots with a two game lead in the East over the New York Jets (5-5) and Buffalo Bills (5-5); the Texans are one game ahead of the Tennessee Titans (6-4) in the AFC South and the Oakland Raiders (6-4) are one game ahead of the Denver Broncos (5-5). Right now the Wild Card teams would come out of the North, the Steelers and the Bengals.
The NFC is pretty much the same as the AFC. The North dominates. The Packers are undefeated and the two Wild Card teams would also come from that division with the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions both sitting at 7-3. Other division leaders are the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys tied on top of the East at 6-4, The New Orleans Saints (7-3) tops the AFC South with the Atlanta Falcons one game back at 6-4. No one is anywhere close to the 49ers in the NFC West with no other team having a winning record.
The Steelers will probably finish 12-4 but where they finish depends on how well the Ravens play the remaining six games. An 11-5 finish may drop them right out of the playoffs.
The Patriots will lose one, maybe two games, and the Texans, after losing their starting quarterback last week, will struggle which should give the Steelers home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.