Steelers-Patriots Game Will Have To Wait For Gauntlet Of Divisional Rivalries

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots appear to be two trains on the same track, barreling down in opposite directions toward one another and set to collide in three weeks’ time. And whoever comes out of that wreckage the victor seems destined to be the one to host the AFC Championship game.

This is the conventional thinking heading into the final six games of the regular season, anyway. The two teams share the best record in the AFC at 8-2 after yesterday’s games, with the Jacksonville Jaguars currently the only team within a game of them at 7-3. They have, of course, beaten the Steelers already.

But in the cases of both teams, the only game left on their schedule against a team that has a current winning record is each other. And most of the rest of the games for both teams is a drive through the scrap heaps of their division.

Even though the AFC North and the AFC East have commonly, and frequently, been weak at the back end, division games often tend to have a funny way of being a lot more competitive and surprising than they have any business being, so who knows what will happen from here on out.

For the Steelers, the AFC North leaders have a game apiece remaining against each of their divisional opponents, including back-to-back games following Sunday’s game against the Bengals in Cincinnati and then at home against the Ravens.

Both teams actually managed to win their games yesterday, though neither have risen to a winning record. The Ravens beat a struggling Packers team without their quarterback, while the Broncos have been losing for a while now. The Steelers wrap up at home against the winless Browns.

As for the Patriots, it seems hard to believe, but five of their six remaining games are all within the division. They will face the 4-6 Dolphins twice in the next three weeks, sandwiched in between that a game against the Bills. After facing the Steelers, they conclude with another game against the Bills and Jets.

One of their two losses last season did come against the Bills, though that was without Tom Brady. They also lost their final two games of the 2015 season to the Jets and Dolphins. They lost to the Dolphins in the opener and the Bills in the finale in 2014. They lost to the Dolphins and Jets in 2013. So it does happen.

Still, the bottom line is that both the Steelers and Patriots are set up to be the favorites in all of their remaining games against other teams. It’s quite possible that one team goes 14-2 and the other 13-3. But if they both go 13-3, the one who won head-to-head will advance, so unless one team loses two other games, it really doesn’t matter.

We’ll see what the mayhem of the divisional gauntlet might have to say about this potential showdown for the top seed in the AFC.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Conserv_58

    Since most Steelers fans are focused on the patriots game as the measuring stick for this season I still think that the jags are the team to be most concerned with. Their defense is #1 in the NFL and for good reason. They lead the league in several categories. No defense had been more dominant than they have been. They remind me of the 2000 ravens. They have a championship caliber defense with an unspectacular offense.

  • FATCAT716

    Also looking at the jags schedule they could very well win the rest of there games and grab a 1st rd bye especially since winning the tiebreaker against the steelers

  • Iulo

    the jags are also a typical team that can beat the patsies…
    so the plan is to put JAX and/or KC against NE before the final AFC game.. lol

  • dany

    If either team goes on an 11 game winning streak that’d be impressive. I predict the pats lose to the steelers and the steelers inexplicably lose to the bengals or browns, making it a wash at 13-3

  • heath miller

    i’ll take that scenario in a heart beat because then we have home field advantage in he playoffs over the pats..

  • Michael Mosgrove

    The green bay game is a trap game.

  • ilamarca

    Which would likely mean the Ravens coming into Heinz Field for the wildcard round.

  • heath miller

    my guess is we dont win all 3 division games..

  • heath miller

    your kidding right?

  • PittShawnC

    Since they won 14 games in 1978, the franchise has only two other seasons where they won 13 or more games in the regular season:

    2001 (13)
    2004 (15)

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I really, really don’t want to see the Steelers suddenly get leap-frogged by both the Pats and Jags. That would really suck. That’s why the winning must continue. The Jags still have Arizona, Seattle, and Tennessee. A loss most likely comes from one of those games.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    It’s certainly no guarantee. And the remaining Cincy game is on the road. Every win from here on out will have to be earned. About the only “easy” games left (and I use that word loosely) are the Packers and Browns.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    If thats the case we would want jax to lose to the titans.

  • SeventhHeavan

    The Jags will not stand a chance against the Pats. People seem to forget they have Blake Bortles. Who would you choose in the playoffs. Brady or Bortles? LMAO. An honestly neither will the Steelers. I hate saying this but how are we going to stop that offense? Brady is on fire. He’s owned us in the past so what makes us think anything has changed? Different scheme. It’s the same zone defense. Better corners? I guess. We need Haden for that game. Burns is iffy. We have literally have no outside rush. For some reason, the Pats defense seem to stymie us as well so it’s hard to compete point for point. I just don’t see it even in Pittsburgh. I hope I’m proved wrong come 12/17. All I picture is Brady just standing in the pocket for 4-5 seconds and picking us apart like he has the last 8 times he’s played us. I see another massacre coming…

  • The only remaining game that Jacksonville is likely to lose will be against Seattle…although the Titans have already beaten them once and could again. I mention it because we don’t want to lose out on a top seed or first round bye through losing a tie-breaker with J-Ville. The solution, of course, is as Al Davis once coined, “Just win, baby, win!” ;<))

  • heath miller

    agreee with everything you said … totally agreee..

  • Rene Gonzalez

    Oddly enough, I wouldn’t mind a loss against the ravens. That way they enter the game against the Pats more pissed and focused. Since I think 14-2 is just too good to be true I’m hoping for a 13-3 tie breaker over the pats.

    With all that said, there should still be some concer with the jags being one game behind and holding the tie breaker. If a team with Blake Bortles as their QB ends up taking the bye week from the Steelers… ugly man, just ugly.

  • Rene Gonzalez

    Last year Ben didn’t play and I think they managed to be sort of competitive for a good chunk of it, having Ben that alone helps.
    They might have lost 27-16 but they had better total yards and time of possesion, again, with Landry at QB that’s something.

    It was also a game where the top receivers after Brown and Bell were Hey-Bey and Hamilton.

    On the Pats side, Edelman and Blount were their main weapons, none are there now. I know that doesn’t matter much since the Pats always find players to win but it just shows the point that both offenses are really different from the game last year, the Steelers definitively way better.

    I sure hope Hayden gets back for that game, but still, the defense deserves a lot of credit. Safe to say without getting into details that they are better than last year’s and last year’s defense wasn’t bad to begin with.

    I just think that a Steelers win is much more likely at Heinz than what most people seem to think. I understand the scars Brady has caused on all of us, but I also see enough signs to think that, at least for this game, that will change.

  • heath miller

    LOL YEP .. AS THEY SAY WHO’D A THUNK IT IN SEPTEMBER…

  • FATCAT716

    Sounds like a good plan

  • dany

    Me too, but if the loss comes before the pats game, like the bengals game, I’ll be on my toes during the browns game week 17. They absolutely can blow it then

  • SeventhHeavan

    I love your optimism Rene! By the way, speaking on the AFC championship game last year. 36-17. Ben did play. It was Bell who was injured in the first quarter and did not return. You have some valid points. I just hope you’re right. I have to see it to believe it. ..

  • Conserv_58

    The browns’ defense is playing hard and keeping them from being blown out of every game.

    When the Steelers played the bengals earlier in the season they were without Burfict. Hopefully the Steelers can get Joe Haden back before that game. Joe knows Green and plays him well.

    The ravens defense is as stout as usual. Like the jags, their offense is suspect. The Jags have the better running game.

  • Conserv_58

    BAH. They don’t need to lose to the ravens to be reminded of their loss in the AFCCG. There is no doubt that losing that game angered Ben all off season. Being the competitor he is I’m sure he absolutedly hated losing to Brady, again.

  • Conserv_58

    2001, Kordell’s last full season as the Steelers starting QB.
    2004, Ben’s rookie year.

  • Conserv_58

    Brady hasn’t gone against a defense like the jags, especially their shut-down corners. The jags defense could beat the patriots offense by making them one dimentional. Take the patriots run game away from them and force Brady to beat them with his arm against their backfield. As much as it pains me to say it, but I’ll take the jags corners over the Steelers’ corners against Brady.

  • heath miller

    i wont even watch the browns game if it is meaningful… if we win i will say ok we should have won .. if we lose i break the TV…

  • mezzetin1

    An Achilles heel, you mean.

  • mezzetin1

    Hundley is a trap qb.

  • mezzetin1

    The Ravens are pat killers in the playoffs.

  • pittfan

    4 game stretch and the unstoppable Pats offense.
    Bucs 19.
    Jets 24.
    Falcons 23.
    Chargers 21.
    Sure, Brady can run up the score against some teams but they are hardly invincible.