In order for the Steelers to win the AFC North and earn a first-round bye in the playoffs, the Cincinnati Bengals must beat the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Steelers also need to beat the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, but this shouldn't be a problem with a possible bye on the line.
If one or both of these wins don't happen, the Steelers face a tough road to the Super Bowl. They would have to open on the road against the Denver Broncos or Oakland Raiders, followed by potential trips to Baltimore and New England.
As far fetched as it may seem, the Bengals have a good chance at beating the Ravens on Sunday for a couple of reasons. First, the Bengals are in the playoffs with a win. Second, the Bengals have won five of the last six games at home against the Ravens.
The Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is having a very good season, throwing for over 3,000 yards with 20 touchdown passes. It helps their cause having the best young wide receiver in the NFL in rookie A.J. Green. Green has 63 receptions for 1,031 yards and seven touchdowns.
Five of the Bengals six losses are by seven points or less, including a seven-point loss to the Ravens in Week 11. This is a talented young team that has the skill to beat the Ravens. There is a confidence among this group of players I haven't seen in Cincinnati for a long time.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will probably be without his best wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who is doubtful with a knee injury. This spells trouble for the Ravens, as the Bengals rush defense is fifth-best in the NFL. Ray Rice is a very good running back, but he won't have an easy time against an inspired Bengals defense.
Don't book your flights to Denver or Oakland yet, Steelers fans. There is still hope for a bye and a home game!