Just when you thought the AFC North was wrapped up, think again. The Cincinnati Bengals, who entered their Week 10 game against the Houston Texans 8-0, had a strangle hold on the division with little sign of a threat from any other team that calls the AFC North home. The Pittsburgh Steelers, at 6-4 after dismantling the Cleveland Browns in Week 10, were thought to be playing for a Wild Card spot in the AFC Playoffs, but when the Bengals dropped their first game to the Texans on Monday Night Football, the door was kept open for the Steelers.
The Bengals still have a firm grip on the division, but with the Bengals still having 7 games on their schedule, nothing is certain in regards to the winner of the AFC North. The Bengals following opponents are (in order): at Arizona Cardinals, vs. St. Louis Rams, at Cleveland Browns, vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, at San Francisco 49ers, at Denver Broncos and vs. Baltimore Ravens.
Not exactly a murderer's row, in terms of strength of schedule, but if the Steelers are going to catch the Bengals, they need them to slip up in this final stretch of games. With the Steelers already sporting 4 losses on their record, the Bengals would have to drop at least 3 of their last 7 games to make things interesting. Of those games listed above, you could possibly see losses to Arizona, Pittsburgh and maybe Denver. Other than those games, the Bengals will be heavily favored to win the remaining games on their schedule.
What some fans might forget, is for Pittsburgh to inject themselves back into the conversation in the AFC North, they will need to play near flawless football in their final 6 games. Take a look at the Steelers' final 6 games after their Week 11 bye week (in order): at Seattle Seahawks, vs. Indianapolis Colts, at Bengals, vs. Denver Broncos, at Ravens and at Browns.
What once was thought as the toughest part of the Steelers' schedule has certainly softened with Andrew Luck out of the lineup for the foreseeable future in Indianapolis, the Seahawks struggling to stay above .500, Peyton Manning showing his age for the Broncos as the season progresses and the Ravens and Browns playing poorly in 2015.
The Steelers could certainly make things interesting in the AFC North, if they can stay healthy, but the odds of them catching Cincinnati are certainly stacked against them. If the Bengals' first loss of the season has done anything for Pittsburgh, it has given them hope of claiming back-to-back division titles. The Bengals had a chance to slam the door shut on the Steelers Monday night in prime time, and failed to do so...in typical Bengals fashion.