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AFC Playoff Scenario: What needs to happen for Steelers to clinch the AFC North

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The magic number fell to three, even though the Steelers did nothing to help their own cause.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Oakland Raiders Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Thirteen games into the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves with a 0.5 game lead in the AFC North. With losses by the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals, the Browns have climbed out of the bottom spot which keeps every team alive in the divisional race. Looking forward at the match-up’s, how many more victories do the Steelers need in order to secure the AFC North?

Here are the current AFC North standings after Week 14 of the NFL season:

  1. Pittsburgh - 7-5-1
  2. Baltimore - 7-6 (0.5 GB)
  3. Cleveland - 5-7-1 (2 GB)
  4. Cincinnati - 5-8 (2.5 GB)

Beginning this time with Cincinnati, they are now 5-8 in the midst of a five-game losing streak. In fact, the Bengals are the only AFC team on a longer losing streak than the Steelers. Still, Cincinnati is a 3-point favorite at home against the Raiders. Getting a win this week would be the first of many improbable steps which could lead the Bengals to have a chance in the AFC North. But one loss, or a win by the Steelers, and Cincinnati is officially eliminated from the division.

Being the only team in the AFC North to win in Week 14, the Cleveland Browns are keeping their slim hopes of the division title alive. Unfortunately, they are two games back with three remaining to a team which holds the tiebreaker against them. Much like the Bengals, they would need to win their remaining games and get a lot of help from both Pittsburgh and Baltimore along the way. First things first, they need to defeat the Broncos in Denver Saturday night where they are a 2.5-point underdog.

As for Baltimore, they were much like the Steelers this past week where they could have picked up a win with one fourth-down stop. Instead, they still lurk only a half game back of Pittsburgh. Currently a nine-point favorite at home against Tampa Bay, this weekend might be their best opportunity to snag the AFC North lead.

The Steelers have cut almost any room for error out of the remainder of their season. With an ever-changing line against the Patriots, they are currently 2.5-point underdogs at home. This is the 12th time they’ve been on the plus side of the line at Heinz Field since Mike Tomlin has taken over as coach. Fortunately, the Steelers are 6-5 in those games. But history does not matter as the Steelers look to finally get past their kryptonite known as the New England Patriots.

For the first time in three weeks, the Steelers magic number to clinch the division decreased due to Baltimore’s loss. The Steelers have a magic number of three with three games remaining, therefore they control their own destiny. But with a difficult matchup this week and one even worse the next, the Steelers are going to have to find a way to overcome the largest point spread they have seen against them in 2018.