clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Clinching first place in the AFC will require a lot more victories

While the Steelers can clinch the AFC North as early as Week 13 it may take the entire regular season to earn home field advantage

NFL: DEC 02 Ravens at Steelers Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 11-0 and have a playoff spot, and the AFC North crown in the palm of their hands. Just winning one more time out of their final five games could be enough to reclaim its division for the first time since 2017. But for a team that should have their eyes on a lot more, clinching the AFC and the first round bye that comes with it will require a lot more work.

With the 10-1 Kansas City Chiefs hot on the Steelers heals for the top spot in the conference just one loss might end any hope of this team getting a proper bye week all year long. With the way NFL playoff tie breakers are set, and with the Steelers and Chiefs not playing each other this year the tie breakers lean the direction of the Chiefs in the event of the two teams finishing the year with an identical record.

Check out the list of non divisional playoff tie breakers:

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable —They didn't play each other
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference — The Steelers currently hold a one game advantage
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four — 4 similar opponents (Houston, Denver, Baltimore, and Buffalo) Chiefs are 4-0 (Den remaining), Steelers are 4-0 (Buf remaining)
  4. Strength of victory — Chiefs .420 - Steelers .413
  5. Strength of schedule — Chiefs .431 - Steelers .413
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed
  8. Best net points in conference games
  9. Best net points in all games
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games
  11. Coin toss

As you can see the most important game remaining on the Steelers schedule is the Buffalo Bills. Losing that one single game nearly ends the Steelers hopes of the top seed in the AFC. The only game the Steelers could lose and remain the conference leader is this week against the Washington Football team. Being an NFC opponent the Steelers would still be leading the second tie breaker.

Let’s take a look at both teams remaining schedules to see how the tie breakers might change as the season draws to a close.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

vs. Washington Football Club 4-7
at Buffalo Bills 8-3
at Cincinnati Bengals 2-8-1
vs. Indianapolis Colts 7-4
at Cleveland Browns 8-3

Kansas City Chiefs:

vs. Denver Broncos 4-7
at Miami Dolphins 7-4
at New Orleans Saints 9-2
vs. Atlanta Falcons 4-7
vs. Los Angeles Chargers 3-8

On paper either teams remaining schedule is fairly even. Three games against teams well above .500 and two teams below. With the week by week nature of the NFL determining strength of schedule is impossible. But we do know, that either team winning their similar matchups is of the highest priority.

As of right now the Steelers could only finish 15-1 at worst and still win the conference if the Chiefs are to win out. As for the Chiefs losing any of their final games might just give the Steelers a big enough window to cruise to a first round bye.

It is possible that in Week 17 either team will have a lot to play for and will be unable to rest their starters. The Chiefs may just force the Steelers hands in chasing a perfect season, and not benching their guys for the entirety of the Steelers Week 17 tilt with the Browns.

But what do you think? How many games will the Steelers need to win to clinch the top seed in the AFC? Hit the poll and the comment section below to share your answers.

Poll

How many wins will the Steelers need to clinch the top spot in the AFC

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    12
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    13
    (5 votes)
  • 8%
    14
    (38 votes)
  • 52%
    15
    (248 votes)
  • 37%
    16
    (175 votes)
469 votes total Vote Now