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Two weeks ago I looked at the 4-6 Steelers playoff chances and argued that if the Steelers won their next two games there were likely to make the playoffs, even if they finished 8-8. Obviously the Steelers didn't win their next two, defeating Cleveland but losing 22-20 to Baltimore on Thanksgivng. But other than the Steelers loss, all the other games this past weekend broke the Steelers way. Let's see how the playoff picture has changed for the Steelers and the other contenders over the last two weeks.
The schedules for the six teams in contention for the second wild-card spot. Games in Bold are predicted losses. (I have eliminated Cleveland and Oakland.)
Ravens (6-6) Vikings, At Lions, Patriots, At Bengals (8-8)
Dolphins (6-6) At Steelers, Patriots, At Bills, Jets (8-8)
Steelers (5-7) Dolphins, Bengals, At Packers, Browns (8-8)
Chargers (5-7) Giants, At Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs (8-8)
Jets (5-7) Raiders, At Panthers, Browns, At Dolphins (7-9)
Titans (5-7) At Broncos, Cardinals, At Jaguars, Texans (7-9)
It is a complicated tiebreaking procedure that plays out like this for the four 8-8 teams: Pittsburgh wins tie break over Miami based on head-to-head win percentage. Wins tie break over San Diego based on best win percentage in conference games. Division tie break was initially used to eliminate Baltimore (Pittsburgh wins tie break over Baltimore based on best win percentage in common games).
Steelers in the playoffs at 8-8. Obviously there are assumptions made for every game and they are sure not to play out as I predict, but none of this appears far-fetched. The Steelers winning three games with the additional loss of Fernando Velasco and possibly Brett Keisel for the season may mean the Steelers assumptions are the most unrealistic of the group. But it is certainly possible. And if Aaron Rodgers is shut down for the season they'll have a decent chance to even win in Green Bay.
The Ravens loss at Cleveland on November 3 could prove to be the game that gets the Steelers in. Even though they didn't beat the Ravens on the road, if they win their three remaining home games, the Steelers still have a realistic shot at the playoffs.