After their win over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, the Steelers have just one game left, a very winnable one against the Cleveland Browns. If they do win, they'll be guaranteed a first-round bye in the playoffs. But that doesn't mean that Steelers fans should be done thinking about this week's NFL action.â†µ
As Steelers Lounge points out (and I recommend you check out this essay on the Steelers' ideal playoff positioning, if you haven't already), it would be great to see the Steelers avoid the dangerous Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. If the Ravens were to be upset by the Cleveland Browns on Sunday (1:00, CBS), that would be a great start, both because it would allow the Steelers to clinch the AFC North and sit their starters next week, and because it would make it more likely that the Ravens and Steelers would avoid each other in the playoffs. (A loss by the Ravens could bump them to the sixth seed in the playoffs, so if the Steelers won the second seed, they would avoid the Ravens in the divisional round.) This would also increase the likelihood that the Ravens would end up facing the Patriots in the divisional round, where they would have the best chance of any of New England's likely divisional-round foes of pulling off an upset.â†µ
The Kansas City Chiefs would be a better matchup for the Steelers, since the Chiefs have a run-happy offense and the Steelers are fantastic at stopping the run. Again, assuming the Steelers end up being the No. 2 seed, the Chiefs can increase the probability that they take the No. 3 seed and end up facing the Steelers by beating the Tennessee Titans (1:00, CBS).â†µ
Other key AFC matchups this week include the Patriots and Bills (1:00, CBS), Jets and Bears (1:00, CBS), Redskins and Jaguars (1:00, FOX), the Colts and Raiders (4:05, CBS), and the Chargers and Bengals (4:05, CBS).