Home Steelers 2017 Season Week 12 AFC Playoff Picture

Week 12 AFC Playoff Picture

by Ian

Week 11 started with a bang on Thursday Night when the Steelers offense broke out of their shell against the Titans. Tennessee’s loss dropped them below Jacksonville (who got a win over the lowly Browns) in the AFC South race. The Steelers got the big win Thursday Night, but didn’t get a lot of help on Sunday with New England breezing to a victory over Oakland, Baltimore shutting down the inept Packers, and the Jaguars aforementioned victory over the Browns. Jacksonville currently sits just one game behind Pittsburgh and has a head-to-head tiebreaker. On the bottom end, the Chargers, Bengals, and Texans re-inserted themselves into the playoff race with victories while the Bills lost their hold on the 6th-seed by getting throttled by the Chargers. There are currently 7 teams within a game of the 5-5 Ravens for the 6th seed in the playoffs and at this point it seems likely that 9-7 or 8-8 may be enough to make the postseason in the abysmal AFC.

1. Pittsburgh
Overall Record: 8-2
Conference Record: 6-1
Divisional Record: 3-0

Last Week: Defeated Tennessee 40-17

This Week: vs Green Bay (Sunday Night)

Remaining Opponents: vs GB, @ CIN, vs BAL, vs NE, @ HOU, vs CLE

The Steelers remain atop the AFC by a slim margin over the Patriots, thanks to a 6-1 conference record to the Patriots 5-1. That lead could evaporate this week as the Steelers play a non-conference game while the Patriots face the reeling Dolphins. The Steelers and Patriots lack 4 common opponents (which is the next tiebreaker) so the tie would then go to Strength of Victory (until the teams face off on December 17). The Steelers have a 3-game lead in the division and could clinch the division title if they win their next 3 games.

2. New England
Overall Record: 8-2
Conference Record: 5-1
Divisional Record: 1-0

Last Week: Defeated Oakland 33-8

This Week: vs Miami

Remaining Opponents: vs MIA, @ BUF, @ MIA, @ PIT, vs BUF, vs NYJ

The Patriots schedule is back-loaded with games against divisional opponents. Their December 17 game against the Steelers is their only remaining game against a non-AFC East opponent. After giving up a ton of yards and points early in the season, the Patriots defense has held opponents to just 12.5 points per game over the last 6 weeks.

3. Jacksonville
Overall Record: 7-3
Conference Record: 7-2
Divisional Record: 2-1

Last Week: Defeated Cleveland 19-7

This Week: at Arizona

Remaining Opponents: @ ARI, vs IND, vs SEA, vs HOU, @ SF, @ TEN

The Jaguars have won 5 of their last 6 games to surpass the Titans in the AFC South. The Jaguars also have a win over the Steelers which could come into play for a seeding tiebreaker, potentially for a bye week. The Jaguars-Titans game in Week 17 could decide the division title. The Jaguars remaining schedule features two road trips to the west coast, a game in Nashville, and a visit from the Seahawks. Blake Bortles may finally be tested against some decent defenses in the stretch run. That being said, given how bad the rest of the AFC is, it is hard to see the Jaguars missing the playoffs at this point. Jacksonville’s aggressive defense racked up 5 more sacks against Cleveland, bringing their total to 40 through 10 games.

4. Kansas City
Overall Record: 6-4
Conference Record: 4-2
Divisional Record: 2-1

Last Week: Lost to the New York Giants in overtime 12-9

This Week: vs Buffalo

Remaining Games: vs BUF, @ NYJ, vs OAK, vs LAC, vs MIA, @ DEN

They say the complexion of the league changes every 4-5 weeks. This has been incredibly true for the Chiefs, who looked like world-beaters after a 5-0 start to the season that included a throttling of the Patriots. The loss to the Steelers may have exposed something as the Chiefs have gone just 1-3 since losing to Pittsburgh, including an embarrassing loss to the 1-win Giants this week. The Chiefs still have a comfortable 2-game lead in their division but they are quickly fading from the race for a bye week. Kansas City has 4 of their last 6 games at home including home dates with the two teams closest to them in the division (Oakland and Los Angeles).

5. Tennessee
Overall Record: 6-4
Conference Record: 5-4
Divisional Record: 2-1

Last Week: Lost to Pittsburgh 40-17

This Week: at Indianapolis

Remaining Games: @ IND, vs HOU, @ ARI, @ SF, vs LAR, vs JAX

The Titans did not look ready for Primetime as they got picked apart by an efficient Steelers offense on Thursday Night. Their defense fell victim to the same trappings we have seen LeBeau defenses fall to in years past – a short passing game that works the ball down the field and gets touchdowns in the red zone. Tennessee does have a head-to-head win over the Jaguars and a sweep of the season series with a Week 17 win would give them the division title if they can stay within a game of the Jaguars.

6. Baltimore
Overall Record: 5-5
Conference Record: 4-3
Divisional Record: 2-1

Last Week: Defeated Green Bay 23-0

This Week: vs Houston (Monday Night)

Remaining Games: vs HOU, vs DET, @ PIT, @ CLE, vs IND, vs CIN

The Ravens rose to the final playoff spot thanks to ineptitude in Buffalo’s decision-making and the Packers starting Brett Hundley at quarterback. Monday Night’s game against the 4-6 Texans is massive in the playoff race as a win could get Houston right back in the mix while a Ravens victory could solidify Baltimore’s position. The middle of the AFC is very bad and Baltimore closes their season with an easy slate of Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati. The Ravens should easily get to 8 or 9 wins this season and they already have head-to-head wins over Miami and Oakland. At this point, it is hard to see any of the teams below them surpassing them in wins or tiebreakers.

7. Buffalo
Overall Record: 5-5
Conference Record: 3-3
Divisional Record: 1-1

Last Week: Lost to the Chargers 54-24

This Week: at Kansas City

Remaining Schedule: @ KC, vs NE, vs IND, vs MIA, @ NE, @ MIA

8. Miami
Overall Record: 4-6
Conference Record: 3-3
Divisional Record: 1-1

Last Week: lost to Tampa Bay 30-20

This Week: at New England

Remaining Games: @ NE, vs DEN, vs NE, @BUF, @ KC, vs BUF

The Dolphins have lost 4 in a row but have some opportunities in a bad AFC to make a run at the playoffs. However, the Dolphins are a mess as Jay Cutler got injured again this week and Matt Moore had to come in off the bench. They lost to a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Tampa Bay team.

9. New York Jets
Overall Record: 4-6
Conference Record: 4-4
Divisional Record: 2-3

Last Week: Bye

This Week: vs Carolina

Remaining Schedule: vs CAR, vs KC, @ DEN, @ NO, vs LAC, @ NE

Leave it to the supposedly-tanking Jets to have a bye week and rise in the playoff standings. That being said, it is possible they don’t win another game as New York has one of the most difficult remaining schedules with games against Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, and New England.

10. Cincinnati
Overall Record: 4-6
Conference Record: 4-5
Divisional Record: 1-2

Last Week: Defeated Denver 20-17

This Week: vs Cleveland

Remaining Games: vs CLE, vs PIT, vs CHI @ MIN, vs DET, @ BAL

A win over the Browns could put the Bengals right back in the thick of the playoff hunt. They have their next 3 games at home and could put themselves in position to challenge the Ravens for a playoff spot in Week 17. The Ravens already have a head-to-head win over Cincinnati, so the Bengals would need to stay within a game of Baltimore by Week 17 to draw even on the tiebreaker front.

11. Houston
Overall Record: 4-6
Conference Record: 3-4
Divisional Record: 1-2

Last Week: Defeated Arizona 31-21

Next Week: at Baltimore (Monday Night)

Remaining Games: @ BAL, @ TEN, vs SF, @ JAX, vs PIT, @ IND

The Texans had lost 3 in a row before Tom Savage led a victory over the Blaine Gabbert-led Cardinals. Improbably, that put Houston back on the fringes of the playoff race with a big game in Baltimore on Monday Night. Houston’s playoff hopes likely rest on that game as they have 3 road divisional games plus a date with the Steelers on Christmas Day to close out the season. It will be an uphill battle for Houston to get to 8 wins at this point.

12. Los Angeles
Overall Record: 4-6
Conference Record: 3-5
Divisional Record: 2-2

Last Week: Defeated Buffalo 54-24

This Week: at Dallas (Thanksgiving)

Remaining Games: at DAL, vs CLE, vs WAS, @ KC, @ NYJ, vs OAK

Four of Los Angeles’ six losses have been by 3 points or fewer. They could be right in the playoff hunt if they had won 1 or 2 of those games. They do have an opportunity to get back to .500 with a Dallas team struggling to find its way without Zeke Elliott and a game against Cleveland.

13. Oakland
Overall Record: 4-6
Conference Record: 4-5
Divisional Record: 1-2

Last Week: Got blown out by the Patriots 33-8 in Mexico City

This Week: vs Denver

Remaining Games: vs DEN, vs NYG, @ KC, vs DAL, @ PHI, @ LAC

After a 2-0 start to the season the Raiders have won just 2 of their last 8 games to fall to the bottom of the playoff race. They lost a head-to-head game with Baltimore which could prove important in the tiebreaker department. If they are going to make any kind of run at the postseason, they need to use their next two games to get back to .500 before a difficult stretch run.

The Others:

Indianapolis and Denver are 3-7. Cleveland is 0-10.

All three of these teams have one thing in common: no answer at quarterback. Jacoby Brissett has not been terrible for Indianapolis but their offensive line has been like a block of swiss cheese. Denver is still starting Brock Osweiler while Paxton Lynch was finally elevated to the #2 spot last week but only because Trevor Seimian was injured. Cleveland is, well, Cleveland. But go ahead and keep telling me about all those draft picks they have in the next two years.

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SCB Steelers' Quick Hitters: The "Short Work Week" Edition - Steel City Blitz November 22, 2017 - 4:09 pm

[…] To get up to date on the AFC Playoff race, read Ian’s weekly look at how things are shaping up:  WEEK 12 AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE  […]

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