By Jeremy Hritz
Week seventeen is here, and the AFC North Divisional Champion has been crowned: the Cincinnati Bengals. With a playoff spot secured, the Bengals are now playing for seeding purposes, and should they beat the Baltimore Ravens at home, which is likely considering their undefeated record there, and should the Patriots lose to the Bills, the Bengals would earn the second seed in the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye. This possibility is enough of a reason for the Bengals to play the contest fiercely against Baltimore, a team that the Pittsburgh Steelers need to lose in order to stay alive in their quest for the postseason.
For as good as the Bengals are at home, the Ravens are equally as bad on the road, with a 3-5 record. With Joe Flacco not completely healthy after suffering a knee injury against the Lions, it will be difficult for Baltimore to capture the win in what should be a raucous environment in Cincy. If the Ravens lose, it would not only eliminate them from the playoff hunt, but it would also drop them to 3-3 in the North, and if the Steelers win, they will bump up to second place in the division, a scenario that not only has playoff implications, but implications for the their 2014 schedule as well.
In fact, if the Steelers beat Cleveland, they will finish 4-2 in the division, which will be tops in the North, as both the Bengals and the Ravens would be 3-3, while the Browns would be 2-4. With the way that Cleveland has been playing and considering their 1-6 record on the road, they are more than likely headed in that direction.
Since the AFC North has been locked up, and since there is still a chance for the Steelers to make the postseason, let’s take a quick look at the contests outside of the division that will have an impact on the outcome of the 2013 Steelers season.
The New York Jets must beat the Miami Dolphins in Miami, a task that may prove too demanding for Gang Green, as the Dolphins throttled them 23-3 only a few weeks ago. Factor in that the Jets are only 1-6 away from home, and the likelihood that the Jets get it done against the Dolphins seems tenuous. The greatest hope for Steelers fans about the Jets’ chances is that they have beaten quality competition such as New England and New Orleans. The Jets biggest issue throughout the season has been their inability to be consistent (sound familiar?). If the Jets can rally around Big Rex, pressure Ryan Tannehill, and get a clean game from Geno Smith, then New York will have a chance to give the Steelers a helping hand.
The Kansas City Chiefs, who are locked into the #5 seed as a Wild Card, cannot benefit from a win against the San Diego Chargers this weekend in San Diego, which makes this contest the one with the least chance of going the Steelers way. Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid said that he will “mix and match” starters which plays into the hands of the Chargers, who are also scrapping for the 6th seed. The Steelers will need Chiefs backup quarterback Chase Daniel to have the game of his life and for the Chargers Philip Rivers to throw interceptions in bunches in order for everything to fall into place.
The Steelers will take care of business, and so should the Bengals. The biggest questions surround whether or not the Jets and Chiefs can provide additional help.
While it doesn’t seem likely, it didn’t seem likely last week either.
Here’s to the luck continuing in week 17 for the Steelers.
|2013 AFC North Standings||Week 17 Games||Week 17 Games with Playoff Implications for the Steelers|
|1. Bengals: 10-5 overall, 2-3 division||Ravens @ Bengals, 1:00 PM||Ravens @ Bengals, 1:00 PM|
|2. Ravens: 8-7 overall, 3-2 division||Ravens @ Bengals, 1:00 PM||New York Jets @ Miami, 1:00 PM|
|3. Steelers: 7-8 overall, 3-2 division||Browns @ Steelers, 1:00 PM||Kansas City @ San Diego, 4:25 PM|
|4. Browns: 4-11 overall, 2-3 division||Browns @ Steelers, 1:00 PM|
|AFC North Statistical Leaders|
|Leading Passer (Yardage)||Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers – 7th in the NFL – 356/553, 4082 yards – 27 TDs, 12 Ints.|
|Leading Rusher (Yardage)||Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers – 20th in the NFL – 224 carries, 770 yards, 7 touchdowns|
|Leading receiver (Yardage)||Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns – 1st in the NFL – 80 catches, 1564 yards – 9 TDs|
|Sack Leader||Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens – Tied for 14th in the NFL – 10 sacks|
|Interception Leader||Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland Browns – Tied for 4th in the NFL – 4 interceptions|
|Top Offense||Cincinnati Bengals – 10th in the NFL – 366.8 yards per game|
|Top Defense||Cincinnati Bengals – 5th in the NFL – 311.1yards per game|