The Steelers playoff hopes ride on their game against the Colts. If they do not win this game, the rest of what happens this week is essentially null and void. But if things do go right, and the Steelers pull off a win on the road, who would help maximize their odds to make the postseason?
Two other games will have massive AFC playoff implications on the Saturday dock. The Bengals need to lose to the Vikings. That is a clear rooting interest to put Pittsburgh a game ahead of Cincinnati. Coupled with the fact that they can win next week, Pittsburgh could help knock the Bengals out of the playoff race with a win next week if they lose to the Vikings. Then, after the Steelers, the Broncos losing to the Lions would be a massive help. The Broncos are a sleeper team to worry about. If you look at the rest of the schedule after Detroit, it consists of the Patriots, Chargers, and Raiders. This one feels like the Broncos need to lose for the Steelers’ sake, or they could run the table.
On the Sunday slate, that is where things get interesting. For one, the Browns losing to the Bears, with a Steelers win, would have them right back in the fifth seed. If the Bears win, that would give Pittsburgh more breathing room, too. The Chiefs and Dolphins seem like locks to make the postseason, but you never know. Any help they can get will help, so the Jets and Patriots winning those games would help boost Pittsburgh’s chances. If those teams were to go 9-8, the Steelers would own the tiebreakers with two more wins.
The battered Texans threaten the Steelers’ playoff hopes since they beat them. Rooting for the Titans to create distance is an easy choice here. It’s the same with the Buffalo Bills, who will face a stacked Dallas Cowboys team. But the more space between them and Pittsburgh, the better. Lastly, the Ravens and Jaguars face off, and while neither team winning truly helps Pittsburgh, I lean towards rooting for the Ravens here. It knocks down another team that the Steelers lost to that could hurl into the wild card race, and at this point, the division talk is too dreamy.
So, to recap, the teams that would maximize Pittsburgh’s playoff odds in Week 15 are:
Steelers over Colts
Vikings over Bengals
Lions over Broncos
Titans over Texans
Patriots over Chiefs
Jets over Dolphins
Ravens over Jaguars
Cowboys over Bills