Steelers Clinch Playoff Spot

Sorry if this post doesn’t make sense, but its late and I’m typing quickly so I can get some sleep before work tomorrow.  Thought I would post something, though, in case you were wondering how the Steelers have clinched a playoff spot this week despite losing, and most of the key teams in the playoff picture winning.

The worst case scenario would have the Steelers finishing at 10-6, 8-4 in conference games.  At that record they could be tied for 6th in the conference (2nd wildcard spot) with 3 teams; Kansas City, San Diego, and Jacksonville (if the Colts end up 10-6 they win the South division).  At 10-6 Kansas City would be 7-5 in conference games, so the Steelers have that tiebreaker.  San Diego would be 8-4 in conference games, so the next tiebreaker is record against common opponents.  The Chargers are sunk by having been swept by Oakland while the Steelers swept Cincinnati.  Jacksonville would similarly be 8-4 in conference games and both would be 4-1 in common games.  The next tiebreaker is strength of victory.  Currently, Steelers defeated opponents have 65 wins (counting Cincinnati twice as they beat the Bengals twice).  Jacksonville, adding their opponents in Week 16 and 17 who they would have to beat for this to factor, their vanquished foes have 53 wins.  That is a 12 game advantage for the Steelers, and given the interlocking nature of the schedule (and that there are several teams from whom a win boosts both Pittsburgh and Jacksonville) its not possible for the Jaguars to overcome that margin and claim the tiebreaker.  And in case of a multi-way tie for 5th and 6th involving the Jets, the Steelers also have the strength of victory tiebreaker against San Diego, the Chargers being sunk by playing the lowly NFC West for non-conference games.   So the Steelers are in.

Thinking more positively than worst case, winning the remaining games against Carolina and Cleveland would clinch the North division and the #2 seed in the conference, in other words, a bye.  If the Steelers and Ravens have the same record in the last 2 games Pittsburgh wins the division under any scenario, as they currently hold the tiebreaker on division record, and if Baltimore did any more losing it would, by the nature of their remaining schedule, be a division game.  If the Steelers end up 11-5 and that is good enough to win the North they would still get the bye seed; the only way they could win the division but not get the bye is if them and Baltimore both lost both remaining games.  Thinking more negatively if they did lose the division they would almost certainly be the #6 seed because of today’s loss to New York, and tonight’s win by New England means they cannot get the #1 seed in the conference; the only thing keeping the Patriots from having the #1 seed clinched is they have not quite yet clinched the division over the Jets.

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