If the Pittsburgh Steelers are still clinging onto any hope of winning the AFC North, then they will be huge fans of the Houston Texans today, who will be visiting the Baltimore Ravens. A loss to the AFC South division leaders would keep the Steelers within two games in the loss column of the Ravens with six games to play.
And they are one of only a few of the Ravens’ opponents left who may offer a serious threat, considering their recent takedowns of the Seattle Seahawks (in Seattle) and the New England Patriots. In fact, the next few games need to be a rough patch for Baltimore if the Steelers want to get back into the race.
At least as of the time of this writing, each of Baltimore’s next four opponents have a winning record. After the Texans, they travel west to face the Los Angeles Rams, who are coming off a loss to the Steelers. Then they host the 8-1 San Francisco 49ers and finally pay a visit to the Buffalo Bills.
It’s hard to see Pittsburgh having any hope of winning the division without Baltimore losing at least two of these games, and even that is a stretch. Because of their loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers at best can only finish with the same division record as the Ravens, which would be the second tiebreaker after head-to-head.
The third tiebreaker after that would be conference record. The Steelers have three conference losses, the Ravens two, so it would be much more preferable for the Ravens’ additional losses to come to the Texans and the Bills rather than the NFC West teams, the 49ers and Rams.
Ideal would be for the Browns to get the better of them again. They won’t have that opportunity until Week 16. Cleveland is the last team to have beaten the Ravens, who have since gone on a 5-0 run, the longest active winning streak in the NFL.
Of course, all of this assumes a scenario in which the Steelers are able to go down to Baltimore and get a win versus the Ravens, who beat them on the road in overtime earlier this season, and there really doesn’t seem to be many great indications of that happening.
Part of the reason Pittsburgh was competitive in that game is because they were able to pick off Lamar Jackson three times—and I’m still not convinced that Devin Bush’s interception actually should have counted. Outside of that game, Jackson only has two other interceptions on the year, and none in the past four-plus games, spanning 107 pass attempts.
TL;DR version: Go Texans, for now. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are public enemy number one at 5-4 and in control of the sixth seed. They host the Cincinnati Bengals today, so not much hope for help there. The Indianapolis Colts at 5-4 host the 4-5 Jacksonville Jaguars, so the Colts can either end up 6-4 or both could be tied with the Steelers at 5-5.