Devlin Hodges and the Steelers took revenge on the Browns with their 20-13 victory at Heinz Field on Sunday, but most importantly, they remained positioned for a spot in the AFC playoffs in 2019.
Pittsburgh improved to 7-5 in Week 13, a record that places team No. 6 in the conference standings, the second wild card behind Buffalo (9-3). The Steelers have the conference tiebreaker record for a game of 7-5 Titans. The Raiders and the Colts, both looking at .500, are rapidly fading behind them. The Browns with 5-7 are now two complete games away. The Steelers have now gone 6-3 against AFC opponents, only losing to the Browns, Ravens and Patriots.
The remaining Steelers schedule is a mixture of ease and difficulty. Week 14 brings a road trip to play against the NFC Cardinals (3-8-1), and in week 16, the Steelers will be on the road against the Jets (4-8), which have been bad against AFC opponents throughout the season. The difficult games are the Bills at home in week 15 and the Ravens (10-1) on the road in week 17.
Since the Ravens have an advantage in the three-game division with four games to play, the Steelers will not win the AFC North. But the head-to-head shot at the Bills could help them reach first place. Around the game in Pittsburgh, the Bills have to play in the Ravens next week and in the Patriots in Week 16 before receiving the Jets in Week 17. There is enough for the Steelers to recover both games in the standings.
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NFL playoff photo
(Updated AFC positions through Sunday afternoon games)
- Patriots (10-1)
- Crows (10-2)
- Texans (7-4)
- Bosses (7-4)
- Accounts (9-3)
- Steelers (7-5)
- On the hunt: Titans (7-5), assailants (6-5), foals (6-6), brown (5-7)
If they reached number 5 in the AFC, the Steelers would likely face the weak AFC South champion instead of the AFC West Chiefs in a wild card game. Kansas City is a much harder place to play in January than Houston, Indianapolis or Tennessee.
For now, the Steelers would be happy to enter as the No. 6 seed given all their offensive injury problems. One thing you should want is for the Texans (7-4) to retire and win the AFC South, because they are the only team that can still win the tiebreaker before the Steelers, with 6-2 in the AFC game entering Game of the Patriots on Sunday night.
However, behind the Texans, the Steelers are in good shape with their tiebreaker over the Colts (6-6), whom they beat in Week 9. That leaves Pittsburgh's tight race vs. Tennessee
The remaining opponents of the Titans are the Raiders on the road in Week 14, the Texans twice in Weeks 15 and 17, and the Saints (10-2) at home in Week 16. Those are two more games for a team that has been better in Nashville The New Orleans clash for Tennessee is a wash with Pittsburgh that has to face Baltimore. When you consider the other three games for the Titans versus what else the Steelers have, it is also an advantage, Steelers.
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Coach Mike Tomlin has done a good job adjusting with his team and staff to get the Steelers to win more with the race and defense game. They like to play ugly battles of attrition, which works well for the mentality and physique of Pittsburgh players.
The Steelers, in other words, have rediscovered their familiar winning identity at the right time. Above all the remaining permutations of playoffs, they are playing well with great momentum towards the postseason.
When entering the last month of the season, that is the best thing to work for your AFC wild card.