Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How New England's Win Helps the Steelers

Right now, the Steelers are in the drivers seat to win the AFC North. Our victory over the Ravens puts us 1 game up in the division race and, assuming both teams win the rest of their divisional games, earns the Steelers the tiebreaker given their better divisional record. Both teams have difficult games left. The Steelers have to play the Jets and the Ravens have to play the Saints.

But let's look at the rest of the playoff standings.

  • New England is the clear-cut favorite for the #1 seed right now. They are 10-2 with a head-to-head win over the Steelers.
  • The Steelers are in position for the #2 seed, assuming they win at least 3 of their last 4 games.
  • Kansas City (8-4) has a 2-game lead in the West right now, and it would take a Denver Broncos-esque collapse to lose that division at this point. Even if they lose to the Chargers this week, they will still have a 1 game lead with St Louis, Tennessee, and Oakland left on the schedule.
  • In the South, Jacksonville has a 1 game lead on Indy, but they still have to play the Colts. The Jags do have an advantage in division record, even if they lose to the Colts, so we'll give them the advantage right now.
  • The two wild cards are pretty well wrapped up between the Jets and Ravens. The Ravens beat the Jets head-to-head, but the Jets have a better record than the Ravens right now. 

So let's just work on the assumption that the playoff seeds fall thusly:
1. New England
2. Pittsburgh
3. Kansas City
4. Jacksonville
5. NY Jets
6. Baltimore

Now, the first round playoff matchups are Baltimore @ Kansas City and NY Jets @ Jacksonville.

The lowest advancing seed plays New England, the highest plays Pittsburgh. This means that if Kansas City beats Baltimore, the Steelers would play the Chiefs. If Baltimore beats Kansas City (which you have to think they'd at least be favored), the Ravens would play the Patriots in the second round, and the Steelers would draw the winner of the Jets-Jaguars game. You have to like our chances against either of those teams.

This represents the ideal scenario for the Steelers. The Patriots would have to play a tough Ravens team in the second round of the playoffs while the Steelers would get either the Jets or Jaguars. The Ravens took the Patriots to overtime earlier this year, and if they could pull the upset, this would give the Steelers the opportunity to host a rematch of the 2008 AFC Championship Game at home if they beat the Jets or Jags.

We have yet to see how well the Steelers match up against the Jets. But given the way the Jets run their offense, you have to think that the Steelers match up very well. The Jets and Jags have a few similarities: both are teams based on running the ball. Both can pass, but both quarterbacks are prone to errors. The Jags secondary has Steelers-killer Rasheen Mathis and um...no one. The Jets, on the other hand, have 2 great corners and 2 below-mediocre safeties.

Either way, if I had to choose between the Jets/Jags and Ravens, I would much rather play the winner of the Jets/Jags game in the Divisional Round and pin my hopes for a home Championship game on the Ravens beating the Patriots.

So even though we were rooting for the Jets to win last night so that we would have the chance to play for the #1 seed next week, it actually might be better for us in the long run that the Patriots won. Because if the Pats had lost and wound up with a Wild Card, we would be saying Novenas in the hope that both Wild Card teams won so we wouldn't have to face the Pats in the Divisional Round.

1 comment:

Koz said...

Many things can change... including the Steelers win 3 of 4 down the stretch. However, this is good thinking.