It was another day, another drop in the standing for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday as the Miami Dolphins’ come from behind victory over the New York Jets brought them even with the majority of the pack at 7-5; in fact, the win vaulted the Dolphins all the way to the sixth seed as the top team with the record.
The Buffalo Bills’ victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday created yet another entry into the 7-5 club, which now encompasses the Steelers, Dolphins, Bills, Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and Kansas City Chiefs, with four games to play.
The San Diego Chargers began the week in what was the 7-4 club, but their victory over the Ravens has provided them with some separation, holding sole possession over the fifth seed and in pouncing distance of their own division title.
In case you were wondering, this week’s happenings have left the Steelers temporarily in 10th place within the conference, fifth out of the six 7-5 teams. The Dolphins stand atop the hill and reap the reward of a playoff spot. After that go the Chiefs, Bills, Ravens, Steelers, and Browns, in that order.
The Ravens, Steelers, and Browns still face the same intra-divisional tiebreaker, and the Ravens still hold the advantage with a 2-1 head to head record against the Steelers and Browns. The Dolphins win their divisional tiebreaker over the Bills via a superior division record.
That leaves the Ravens, Dolphins, and free-floating Chiefs to compete for the sixth seed. The Dolphins come out on top due to having the best conference record among the group. It then comes to the Ravens, Chiefs, and Bills. The Chiefs are 5-4 in the AFC, while the Bills are 4-5. Thus, the Chiefs are the first team out of the playoffs.
The Bills’ 4-5 conference record is still superior to the Ravens’ 3-5 record, thus giving the Bills the next-best positioning. The last two seeds decided between the Steelers and Browns comes down to winning percentage in common games, out of which Pittsburgh comes out on top, leaving the Browns at the 11th seed.
Just in case you were wondering, the Steelers would be the fifth seed right now had they managed to defeat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. It would have taken the fourth tiebreaker, but Pittsburgh would have had a superior strength of victory to the Chargers. So the difference between a win or loss on Sunday currently equates to a five spot drop in the conference standings.
Of course, I must always reiterate that these tiebreaking procedures do not officially come into effect until the conclusion of the regular season. The season does not end after 12 games, as much as the Chargers and Dolphins might wish that were true.
The fact of the matter is that the Steelers still control their own playoff fate on the road to the division crown, but that’s something we can look at in more detail tomorrow.