The Steelers didn't have a chance to grab the lead in the hunt for the AFC's sixth seed Sunday, even with a win over Cleveland. The Tennessee Titans replaced the Jets by virtue of a 23-19 win at Oakland. Tennessee defeated Pittsburgh in Week 1.
The Steelers lead Baltimore by a tiebreaker (head-to-head), one that will either be solidified or squandered Thursday, when they take on the Ravens on Thanksgiving night in Baltimore.
Sitting at 5-6, the Steelers can't simply win out and make the playoffs - although that's close to being the situation. Tennessee will claim that final spot should it win the remainder of its games.
There are still five games to play, and while this weekend alleviated some of the logjam - nine teams were within a game and a half of each other for that final spot - there is still a lot of football left to play. Clearly, Pittsburgh's short-week game against rival Baltimore is huge. It's big for both teams. The 5-6 Ravens snapped out of a funk with a convincing 19-3 win over the Jets, the previous sixth-seed. It gives them some confidence heading into Thursday's showdown.
Idle Cincinnati sits two games ahead of the Ravens and Steelers. Pittsburgh plays the Bengals once more this season. Cincinnati and Baltimore split their two games this year.
Week 13 games with playoff importance (record, conference seed)
Pittsburgh (5-6, 7) at Baltimore (5-6, 8) - There's no point in having these teams play on a smaller stage than Thanksgiving Night. While it's highly unlikely both teams advance to the postseason, this game will be as much of a playoff game this week as can be said for any other.
Tennessee (5-6, 6) at Indianapolis (7-4, 3) - The Titans have a good week to take on the floundering Colts. Top to bottom, Indianapolis has struggled since losing Reggie Wayne, and if not for a generally weak division, their own playoff hopes might be in danger.
Miami (5-6, 11) at Jets (5-6, 10) - It's never clear which Miami or Jets team anyone will get week in and week out. Of note, the Steelers play the Dolphins in Week 14, their third consecutive against an AFC team with faint playoff hopes in a must-win game for both teams.
Cincinnati (7-4, 4) at San Diego (5-6, 9) - It's cheesy, but perhaps true, rooting for a tie in this game is probably the right route. With one more game against the Bengals, winning out would give the Steelers the division championship if Cincinnati loses to the Steelers and once more. The Chargers are right on the heels of Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC wild card race.
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