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NFL Playoff Picture: Let's go Bengals, Jets and Chiefs

An in-depth look at the four games that will play a factor in determining the sixth seed in the 2013 AFC Playoffs, including Pittsburgh's game against Cleveland.

Matt Sullivan

The Steelers are looking to get by with a little help from their non-friends.

Four things need to happen in order for the Steelers to qualify for the 2013 AFC Playoffs: They need to defeat the Cleveland Browns. The Cincinnati Bengals must defeat the Baltimore Ravens, the New York Jets must defeat the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs must defeat the San Diego Chargers.

Game 1: Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh

Why Pittsburgh will win

The Steelers are simply a better team than the Browns, and certainly have played better over the last few weeks. Pittsburgh notched four takeaways in a 27-11 Week 12 victory over the Browns, and haven't lost to the Browns at home since 2003. Incidentally, that was the last time a Steelers team finished below .500 in a season, a fate they would suffer should they lose today.

Why Cleveland will win

The Browns have a talented roster, but the team has been plagued by inconsistent and flat-out awful play at the quarterback position. Today's starter, Jason Campbell, has made three starts against Pittsburgh, once in 2008 with the Washington Redskins, once in 2010 with the Oakland Raiders and Week 12 this year with Cleveland. He's been mauled in all three of those starts. Perhaps he now has enough exposure to the team's defense to be able to put together a solid game, giving his defense a chance to steal one from the 7-point favorite Steelers. (Read Dawgs By Nature for the latest on the Browns)

Game 2: Baltimore vs. Cincinnati

Why Cincinnati will win

Since Pittsburgh gave the Bengals a thrashing on Sunday Night Football in Week 15, they've gotten back on track with as thorough and complete a beating of Minnesota in Week 16 as perhaps the team has had in the tenure of head coach Marvin Lewis. While Weeks 15 and 16 are probably on the extreme end of what this team is capable of doing, Week 16 is closer to reality than Week 15. They're balanced and when playing at home, nearly unstoppable. (Read Cincy Jungle for the latest on the Bengals)

Why Baltimore will win

The Ravens have owned the Bengals in recent years, regardless of the stadium. Baltimore hasn't lost a meaningful game to the Bengals since 2010 - the only losses from 2011 through Week 10 of 2013 came in Week 17 last season, when the Ravens rested their starters for their upcoming playoff game. That's not the case this time; Baltimore needs to win to remain alive for their sixth consecutive postseason trip, and Cincinnati still has aspirations of locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Baltimore's defense has improved considerably as the year has gone on, and they're a late season team. They are capable of putting a nightmarish 41-7 whipping from New England in Week 16 behind them. (Read Baltimore Beatdown for the latest on the Ravens)

Game 3: Jets vs. Miami

Why Miami will win

Games in the elements will be in the Jets' favor. They run the ball well and they stop the run well. Unfortunately, this game is in Miami, and fair weather is expected. Along with that, the Dolphins barely even try to run the football, and have gotten outstanding play from second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill over the second half of this season. Of the three early games, this one has the lowest likelihood of ending in Pittsburgh's favor. (Read The Phinsider for the latest on the Dolphins)

Why the Jets will win

Stranger things have happened than a division opponent pulling out an underdog victory in Week 17. Jets coach Rex Ryan is reportedly on the hot seat, and a strong late-season charge will give the organization reason to believe he's capable of leading the team in the future. At the same time, Ryan and the Jets have nothing to play for - the perfect recipe for spontaneous decisions like fake punts and multiple fourth-down conversion attempts. It's really hard to plan for those kinds of opponents. (Read Gang Green Nation for the latest on the Jets)

Game 4: Kansas City vs. San Diego

Why the Chargers will win

The Chiefs are expecting to play their jayvee team in this game, having already locked up the No. 5 seed in the playoffs. Their opponent isn't yet finalized, but they will definitely be on the road, and after a long trip to the West Coast, it's likely their preparation is already being done on the more important road game they have in their future. San Diego can probably just cruise to a win - they may be eliminated by the time they play as well. (Read Bolts from the Blue for the latest on the Chargers)

Why the Chiefs will win

If they feel they are better prepared for the playoffs by keeping the core team on the field for four quarters, and actively game-planning to win, as opposed to not expose any more of their playbook needlessly, the Chiefs are certainly capable of winning. Their defense has been among the best in the NFL all season in terms of sacks (44) and interceptions (20), and the explosive ability of running back Jamaal Charles (1,980 yards from scrimmage, 19 touchdowns) is enough to keep them competitive against anyone in any location. (Read Arrowhead Pride for the latest on the Chiefs)