The AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals stumbled in prime-time for the second consecutive week, and Steelers fans are starting to get excited with “only 2.5 games back” talk.
The half game is because they beat us, but I’ll admit, at a glance with the Bengals being 8-2 and the Steelers 6-4; it kinda looks like the Steelers are within reach of the division title.
Unfortunately, when you start to look at the scenarios, the AFC North crown is still very much a long-shot for the Steelers. I hate to be a debbie downer, but let’s look at the numbers.
The Steelers’ best case scenario is winning out, and finishing 12-4 overall, and 4-2 in the division. That’s probably unlikely, but we almost have to start there to have a realistic shot at the division.
In order to beat the Bengals out-right, we need to hope they lose 3 of of their next 6 games. In those games they play the Case Keenum lead Rams at home, travel to Cleveland to face Johnny Manziel, get the Steelers at home, travel to San Francisco and play Blaine Gabbert, then to Denver who may still be sticking with Brock Osweiler, and finish at home against the completely decimated Ravens roster.
Obviously the Steelers are a tough win. Denver could be questionable depending on how Osweiler plays… But do we think they lose any of the rest of those games? I don’t. Maybe if they drop a game to the Rams this week I’ll start to believe.
If we tie, though, then what happens?
NFL division tie-breaker rules are as follow…
1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
We’re assuming we beat the Bengals in Cincinnati, so we’d split then, and it would go to division record.
The Bengals are currently are a perfect 3-0 in the division. If we beat them and won out, we’d finish at 4-2 within the division. In order for the Steelers to win this tie-breaker the Bengals would need to lose all 3 division games remaining to be 3-3 in the AFC North.
To keep moving down the tie-breaker scenarios here, we need them to lose to the Steelers and either the Browns or Ravens to get to common opponents, where the teams have 12 common opponents (every game except the Patriots and Colts, where the Bengals played the Bills and Texans).
So far, the Steelers are 6-2 in those “common opponent” games, and the Bengals are 6-1.
This is where I have to tap out. There’s too many scenarios at this point for me to try and work them out. Feel free to comment if you’re still following me and understand what would have to happen there.
For simplicity sake, we have to win out and hope the Bengals lose 3 more games.
To be honest, I’m not sure it would be a bad thing to lose the division if the Steelers grab the 5 seed.
Winning the division would probably be the 3 seed, meaning hosting the 6 seed (likely to be the Bills, Jets, Chiefs, Colts, Jaguars or Texans). As the 5 seed the Steelers would go on the road to play the winner of the AFC South. I think the Steelers are better than those other wildcard hopefuls, but they’re all dangerous. I think I’d prefer to travel to Indianapolis, Houston, or Jacksonville.
I’m not trying to be a debbie downer; I’m still really optimistic about this season but winning the division is still a long way away.