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NFL Playoff picture: Despite Bengals' victory, Steelers have clear path to Wild Card berth

The Pittsburgh Steelers control their own destiny for a Wild Card berth if they win out, despite a win by the Cincinnati Bengals Thursday night. The two teams face off next Sunday, with the Steelers potentially able to eliminate the Bengals from postseason contention.

The Cincinnati Bengals' win over the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday night wasn't ideal for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the outcome won't hurt them if they continue to win games.

It looked like the Eagles had showed up to help out the Steelers Thursday night, but they turned the ball over six times and saw a 13-10 halftime lead devolve into a 34-13 loss at the hands of the Bengals. With the result, Cincinnati temporarily holds a half-game lead over Pittsburgh for a Wild Card spot, but that will change Sunday when Pittsburgh takes on the Dallas Cowboys. If Pittsburgh loses, they'll be a game behind. If they win, they'll be tied.

Being tied with Cincinnati would be a good position for Pittsburgh heading into the final two weeks of the season Having won the Week 7 game over the Bengals 24-17, they can seal the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win next week at home against them. If they're tied heading into the game, they'll seal a playoff berth with a win. The Steelers still have a shot at catching the Baltimore Ravens, but they could be out of contention for the division lead quickly as the Ravens have a two-game lead with three weeks of play left.

The Steelers can end any speculation by just winning out: with the tiebreaker, they're guaranteed to make the playoffs if they finish 10-6.

Here's a look at the AFC North standings after Thursday night:

AFC North Standings


(updated 12.14.2012 at 2:06 AM CST)

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