Now that last week's games are mostly over (the Saints play the Falcons on Monday Night Football in a game that will be big in the NFC), here's a look at the NFL Playoff Picture in the AFC.
The Steelers would win the No. 1 seed if they win on Sunday against the Browns and both the Ravens and Patriots lose; they would get the No. 2 seed if they win Sunday and only the Ravens lose. Otherwise, they will be the No. 5 seed, in which case they would face off against the AFC West champion, whether that's the Broncos or Raiders. Obviously, that's not the roughest first-round matchup, but the Steelers could really use a week off to get everyone healthy.
Fortunately, they have a couple things going for them on that score. First, the Ravens play the Bengals, who would clinch the last playoff spot with a win. The Bengals haven't been able to stand up to the Steelers or Ravens yet this year, but next week's game is by no means a gimme for Baltimore. Also, both the Ravens vs. Bengals and Steelers vs. Browns games are at 4:15 next Sunday, so the Steelers will at least have a clearer sense of the playoff picture before their game begins. The most important game, from their perspective, will unfortunately be the Ravens game, so they'll have to try hard against the Browns regardless, but some information (particularly regarding the Bills vs. Patriots matchup at 1:00, in which a win would clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the Pats) is better than none.