Yes, I realize writing this title very well may jinx it, but sometimes you have to look the jinx gods in their face and flat-out say it. This week could set the Steelers up well for the wildcard and could even possibly throw the division in to the mix.
Baltimore is still very much a strong favorite to win the division race. Yes, the Ravens are two games ahead of the Steelers. Yes, the Ravens pretty much will win in any tie breaker scenario. However, there is a chance that in the last four games, the Ravens could implode and the Steelers could walk away with the division. Let’s look at the next four games (including this weekend):
New York Giants
Those are all four tough games that could go either way. In contrast, the Steelers next four games are much easier by comparison.
This week, Sports Tradex has the Redskins at 60% to beat the Ravens. Considering the Steelers are commanding nine point favorites against the Chargers (and over 80% to win by most handicappers), this week is setup well to just be one game back. After that, we just need the Steelers to win out and Baltimore to lose two out of three to Denver, the Giants, and Cincinatti. Very possible.
The wildcard is still the most likely scenario for the Steelers, and we still need to fend off the Bengals for it. The Steelers and Bengals are both tied at 7-5, though the Steelers have the tie breaker since they won earlier this season at Cincinatti. The Week 16 game against the Bengals at Pittsburgh will be key. If the Steelers can win that, then the Bengals will need to win 2 more games than the Steelers between the other three weeks. That isn’t likely.
For this week, the Bengals likely won’t gain ground on the Steelers. Not only are the Steelers huge favorites against the Chargers, the Bengals could be upset by the Cowboys. Since the game is at Cincinnati, the Bengals are still favored. However, the SportsTradex.com market shows them with just a 65% chance of winning, so a Cowboys win over the Bengals is significantly more likely than a Chargers win against the Steelers.
Writing these optimistic pieces always seems to backfire, but there is some reason to be optimistic about the Steelers playoff chances. With Big Ben back, the Steelers may make a late season surge which should at least get them a wild card and possibly even the division title.