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AFC Playoff Scenario: How the Steelers can remain in the playoff picture with a loss in Week 16

A lot can happen between now and the end of Week 16, so we break down what can happen with the Steelers’ playoff hopes heading into this week’s action.

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team hanging on to their division lead by a thread, but all hope isn’t lost. After a huge Week 15 win over the New England Patriots, the team still controls their own destiny. However, when the team has to face the New Orleans Saints in Week 16 — the aforementioned control doesn’t sound so comforting.

As all NFL teams prepare for Week 16, the question now comes up regarding what could happen this week, and where would it leave the Steelers? Let’s talk scenarios:

Current AFC Playoff Picture:

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Houston Texans
3. New England Patriots
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. Baltimore Ravens

In the hunt:

Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans

For these scenarios we will only talk about how these games might play out for the above teams.

Week 15 games

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Seattle Seahawks (Sunday Night Football)
Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Houston Texans
Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers (Saturday Night)
Indianapolis Colts vs. New York Giants
Washington Redskins at Tennessee Titans (Saturday 4:30 p.m. ET)
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

When you look at all the games which could impact the AFC Playoff Picture, really only the following teams can impact the Steelers’ standing. The Ravens, Colts and Titans. What fans want to know is, can the Steelers lose, and still remain in the playoff picture?

The answer is yes, but a lot needs to happen. Let’s go over the scenarios:

Scenario No. 1

If the Steelers lose and...

...the Texans, Colts, Ravens, Patriots, Chiefs and Titans win...

The Steelers would be dropped from the Top 6 and be on the outside looking in. The Ravens would claim the No. 4 seed, with the Colts taking the No. 6 spot in the Playoff Picture.

Scenario No. 2

If the Steelers lose and...

...the Texans, Giants, Ravens, Patriots and Titans win...

If the Giants are able to beat the Colts, the Titans, not the Steelers, would take the No. 6 seed, with the Ravens claiming the No. 4 spot in the standings.

Scenario No. 3

If the Steelers lose and...

...the Texans, Giants, Ravens, Patriots and Redskins win...

This scenario seems outlandish, but if it happens the Steelers would claim the No. 6 seed with both the Titans and Colts being pushed out of the Top 6.


In other words, if the Steelers want to stay in the Playoff Picture, all while losing on Sunday, they need the Redskins and Giants to win. Any loss by the Ravens would mean the Steelers would stay as the No. 4 seed, regardless of the outcome of the Pittsburgh vs. New Orleans Week 16 game. And as stated before, the Steelers still control their own destiny, so if they win out, they cannot fall below the No. 4 seed, regardless of other outcomes of games.