It was yet another outstanding showing for the AFC North in Week 9, with the entire division sweeping their opponents to keep an already tight race as close as ever heading into Monday Night Football.
In fact, if the season ended today, the entire AFC North division, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals would make the playoffs. The Ravens, who hold a two-game lead in the division at 7-2, would hold the No. 2 seed in that circumstance, which would earn them homefield advantage through the playoffs at least through the AFC Championship, if they were to advance that far in the race. The Steelers, Browns and Bengals would each sit as players in the Wild Card as the No. 5-7 seeds, respectively, based on playoff seeding tiebreakers.
It would mark the first time in NFL history that an entire division would make the playoffs if it were to happen, given the restructuring of the NFL playoff format. The league voted to include three Wild Card teams in the playoffs instead of two starting in the 2020 NFL season.
The New York Times postseason simulator credits the Steelers with a 1% chance to earn the No. 1 seed, a 5% chance to win the division and a 37% chance to enter the playoffs as a Wild Card team. Of course, that means that mathematically, NYT still sees a potential uphill battle for the Black & Gold, crediting them with a 57% chance to miss the postseason. Despite the ups and downs of Pittsburgh’s season to date, they do have several upcoming games against teams that currently hold a losing record, including the Packers (3-5) in Week 10, the Cardinals (1-8) in Week 13 and Patriots (2-7) in Week 14, which could help them pad the win column… if they can properly execute.
AFC playoff picture ahead of Week 9 MNF:
No. 1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs (7-2, 5-1 AFC)
2. Baltimore Ravens (7-2, 4-2 AFC)
3. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-2)
4. Miami Dolphins (6-3)
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3*)
6. Cleveland Browns (5-3**)
7. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3)
* Steelers win three-way tie in the AFC North with 2-0 division record
** Browns have a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bengals
In the hunt:
8. New York Jets (4-3)
9. Buffalo Bills (5-4)
10. Houston Texans (4-4)
11. Indianapolis Colts (4-5, 3-3 AFC)
12. Las Vegas Raiders (4-5, 2-3 AFC)
13. Los Angeles Chargers (3-4)
14. Tennessee Titans (3-5, 2-4 AFC)
15. Denver Broncos (3-5, 1-4 AFC)
16. New England Patriots (2-7)