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NFL Playoff Scenarios: Colts Now In Good Position, While Steelers Must Fight To Maintain Theirs

A quick follow-up on my earlier post about NFL playoff scenarios in the AFC, now that the late games are over: the Colts beat the Raiders 31-26, thus taking the lead over the Jaguars in the AFC South. Indianapolis would be the fourth seed in the playoffs if the season ended today. Also, in a bit of good news, the Bengals beat the dangerous Chargers 34-20, knocking San Diego out of the playoff picture.

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With all that in mind, let's take a look at the updated playoff standings:

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1. Patriots 13-2: New England has clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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2. Steelers 11-4: Pittsburgh can clinch the AFC North crown and a first-round bye with a win against the Browns next week.

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3. Chiefs 10-5: The Chiefs have clinched the AFC West division.

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4. Colts 9-6: The Colts need a win or a Jacksonville loss next week to wrap up the AFC South crown.

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5. Ravens 11-4: Baltimore has clinched a playoff berth and could end up with a first-round bye with a win and a Steelers loss next week.

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6. Jets 10-5: New York has clinched a Wild Card berth.

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The nightmare scenario for the Steelers is that they lose next week and both the Ravens and the Jets win. Since the Jets would hold a tiebreaker against the Steelers after beating them head-to-head, New York would be the fifth seed and the Steelers would be the sixth. This would mean that if the Steelers won in the Wild Card round, they'd have to face the Patriots in the divisional round. The Ravens and Jets have relatively easy games this week against the Bills and Bengals, respectively, so there's no reason this couldn't happen if the Steelers phone in their game against the Browns. So there's a lot on the line for the Steelers this week, and they'll be taking their matchup against Cleveland very, very seriously.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.