The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the outside looking in to the AFC playoff picture as the Sunday games of Week 16 get set to kick off.
The Steelers’ path to winning the AFC North is seemingly simple, they must win one more game than both Cincinnati and Baltimore, who play one another on Sunday. The AFC Wild Card picture is more convoluted.
The end result, though, is that the Steelers stand on Sunday morning with an estimated 17% chance of making it to the playoffs, according to odds calculated by Five Thirty Eight. They have an 11% chance of winning the division, and a roughly 6% chance of making it as a Wild Card.
The Steelers beating the Kansas City Chiefs in their 4:25 p.m. kickoff will have the biggest impact on their odds. If Pittsburgh wins, they move to a 43% chance of making the playoffs and a 29% chance of winning the division. If the Chiefs win, those odds fall to 10% and 7%.
But the other AFC games played will also impact the Steelers’ fortunes. Here’s who Pittsburgh fans should be rooting for on Sunday:
• Bengals vs. Ravens: A Bengals win keeps the Steelers at a 17% chance to make the playoffs and an 11% chance to win the division and is the expected outcome. A Baltimore upset would actually slightly depress the Steelers’ overall playoff odds, down to 15%, but keep their AFC North odds at 11%. A tie doesn’t do much for the Steelers, either, because they lose tiebreakers to the Bengals. It’s just as good as a victory for Cincinnati.
VERDICT: The Steelers need both of these teams to lose, and one of them probably will. The most important thing is the winner losing one somewhere down the road.
• Patriots vs. Bills: A Patriots win keeps the Steelers at a 17% chance to make the playoffs and is the expected outcome by the model. A Bills win drops the Steelers’ chances to 15%. The AFC North race is not impacted by this game.
VERDICT: Hold your nose and hope for a Pats win.
• Chargers vs. Texans: A Los Angeles win hurts the Steelers, dropping their playoff odd to 15%. As unlikely as it seems, a Houston upset would give the Steelers a 20% shot at making it to the postseason.
VERDICT: Hope for the long shot Texans upset.
• Broncos vs. Raiders: Both of these teams remain in the AFC playoff hunt at 7-7. A Denver victory drops Pittsburgh to 16% to make the playoffs, while a Las Vegas win keeps them at 17%. Another on where the Steelers could use for both teams to lose. A tie would keep the Steelers at 17%.
VERDICT: Bet on Vegas for the best Steelers playoff odds.
• Dolphins vs. Saints: The Fish are somehow still in it after their disastrous start and are facing Ian Book, so they could very well keep things rolling. The Steelers stay at 17% with a Miami loss, but only fall to 16% with a Dolphins win, so this one is fairly low stakes.
VERDICT: Book It: Steelers want the Saints to win.