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AFC Standings: On a day the Steelers didn’t play, they still won

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The Pittsburgh Steelers enjoyed their bye-week relaxing and rising higher in the NFL rankings.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The bye-week is tough for fans, but not for players. While fans suffer through a week of football without their favorite team, most players just sit back and enjoy a week when their bodies don’t get beat to a pulp.

Without playing a game, it might seem to some that a team like the Steelers has nothing to lose, but also nothing to gain, from the week off. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Week 9 came and went, and it saw distance grow in both the AFC North standings, as well as the overall AFC standings.

First, let’s talk about the AFC North. With both Pittsburgh and Cleveland enjoying a bye-week, both the Ravens and Bengals were losers in their respective games, increasing the lead for the idle Steelers.

Here are the updated standings:

Pittsburgh Steelers - 6-2
Baltimore Ravens - 4-5
Cincinnati Bengals - 3-5
Cleveland Browns - 0-8

The Bengals were annihilated by the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday, and the Ravens were ousted by the Titans in Tennessee. With the Steelers now three games ahead of both the Ravens and Bengals—not counting the fact they’ve already defeated both teams this season—the lead seems almost insurmountable for either team to catch Pittsburgh.

Not to count the chickens before they hatch, but the fact is, the Steelers could wrap up the AFC North abnormally early this season. But don’t let anyone tell you there won’t be anything left to play for down the stretch. After all, there’s that first-round bye and home-field advantage thing which is pretty enticing.

If you think the news is good for the Steelers within their division, the news also is good in the conference. The previously 5-2 Bills lost on Thursday night to move their record to 5-3, and the Chiefs lost to the Cowboys to drop their record to 6-3 heading into their Week-10 bye.

What once was a 3-way tie at the top of the conference is now a 2-way tie between the Steelers and Patriots, both having a bye in Week 9, with matching 6-2 records. The Steelers have the superior division and conference record, which gives them the top spot heading into the second half of the regular season.

There’s a lot of football left to be played, but who said a team can’t win without playing?

The Steelers just did.