The Pittsburgh Steelers take their 2-3 record to Cincinnati next Sunday night to face a Bengals team that dropped their third game of the season Sunday to the Cleveland Browns. The loss just so happened to be the Bengals second in the division as they lost to the Baltimore Ravens back in week 1.
While the Steelers have played one less game than the Bengals, the Sunday night tilt has become super important for both teams now. A loss by the Bengals would mean that they can finish no better than .500 in the division, while a loss by the Steelers would be their fourth in six games and leave them at best two games behind the Ravens in the loss column depending on the outcome of their game against the Houston Texans next Sunday afternoon.
According to the site http://makenflplayoffs.com/, the Steelers have a 27.2% chance of making the playoffs after the games on Sunday, while the Bengals have a 35.2% chance. The Steelers open up as 2.5 point favorites on the road and that is a bit surprising considering their injuries, and more importantly, the way that they have played so far this season.
Six weeks in now and the AFC is pretty much a mess. The Texans are no longer undefeated, and depending on what happens Monday night, there could be two divisions led by teams with 3 losses and 9 teams total within the conference with 3 losses.
A win Sunday night by the Steelers over the Bengals, combined with a Ravens loss earlier in the day to the Texans, would leave the black and gold just 1 game back to the Ravens in the loss column and that would be pretty uplifting the way things have gone so far to start the season.
Is it a must-win game Sunday night? Mathematically, no, but the way things are going right now in the AFC, losing divisional games is the last thing a team wants to do right now.