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NFL Playoff Scenarios: Steelers Locked Into Wild Card Spot, But Face Uphill Battle In AFC North

Here's a look at the AFC playoff picture. With four regular-season games left, the Steelers are in great shape to go to the playoffs as a Wild Card team, although they'll need some help to overtake the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC North championship.

AFC East

Patriots 9-3
Jets 7-5

AFC North

Ravens 9-3
Steelers 9-3

AFC South

Texans 9-3
Titans 7-5

AFC West

Broncos 7-5
Raiders 7-5

Wild Card

Steelers 9-3
Bengals 7-5
Titans 7-5
Raiders 7-5
Jets 7-5

It's too early to start dealing with tiebreakers for all the 7-5 teams, since there are still four games left to play. The big question, for Steelers fans, is whether Pittsburgh can overtake Baltimore for the AFC North crown (the two teams have the same record, but the Ravens beat the Steelers twice and therefore have a tiebreaker) and skip the first week of the playoffs altogether.

It'll be tough. The Steelers have a fairly easy remaining schedule, but they do have a tough game against the 49ers coming up in two weeks. The Ravens, meanwhile, have the Colts, Chargers, Browns and Bengals. While the Bengals have made huge steps this year, they haven't proven they can hang with the AFC North elite yet. So the Steelers will probably have to run the table on their remaining games and also get some unlikely help from one of the Ravens' remaining opponents.

In the NFC, the Packers, 49ers and Saints look like they'll cruise to their division titles. That leaves the Cowboys and Giants to fight it out in a mediocre NFC East, with the Falcons, Bears, Lions and the NFC East loser to contend for Wild Card spots.

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