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

After yet another loss, the Steelers’ magic number is stuck at four.

Baltimore Ravens v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Twelve games into the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves with a 0.5 game lead in the AFC North. With a win by the Ravens coupled with losses by the Steelers, Bengals, and Browns the top of the division is as tight as it can be with one team having a tie. 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 13 of the NFL season:

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

Starting again with the Cleveland Browns, they are not officially eliminated from winning the AFC North. Yes, they are three games back to a team which holds the tiebreaker against them, but there is an outlandish scenario where either the Bengals or Ravens could tie one of their remaining games to where the three-way tiebreaker could come in to play. Even then, Cleveland is not guaranteed to have the advantage. First and foremost, they would have to win at home this week against Carolina where they are currently and even draw.

The Bengals are now 5-7 and the downward spiral is in full effect. Losers of four straight games, A.J. Green and Andy Dalton are out for the remainder of the season. Needing to win out for even have a chance at winning the north, it does not help that the Bengals are 15.5-point underdogs in Los Angeles on Sunday.

As for Baltimore, they managed to pick up yet another game on the Steelers with an impressive win in Atlanta. The Falcons are only 4-8 this year, but they are still a tough team to beat in their house. If the Ravens could go on the road and take down the Chiefs this weekend, that would be an impressive victory. For now, they remain only a half game back of Pittsburgh.

Two weeks ago, the Steelers could have clinched the division with two wins and two Ravens’ losses. Instead, the exact opposite happened so the magic number for the Steelers to clinch the division is still four with just four games remaining. But the Steelers still control their own destiny. It is also noteworthy to mention the Ravens have a magic number of five to claim the AFC North.

This coming week may be the most telling about how the division is going to play out in 2018. With the Steelers currently an 11-point favorite while Baltimore is a 7-point underdog, the trajectory of each team will be completely re-evaluated if the Ravens pull off the upset and the Steelers give Oakland their third win. Some breathing room would be nice with some tough opponents in the coming weeks, but for now the Steelers need to stay focused on winning one game at a time.