Steelers' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 10
The Pittsburgh Steelers received a gift in the AFC North race to start Week 10, as the Miami Dolphins beat the Baltimore Ravens.
Pittsburgh enters Sunday with the same number of losses as the Ravens, and they are just one game behind them in the win column. Mike Tomlin's team should join the Ravens at 6-3 given it welcomes the winless Detroit Lions to Heinz Field.
If the Steelers win as expected, they could use some help from other teams to bolster their standing in the AFC North and the overall playoff race.
Patriots over Browns
The Cleveland Browns are the only other AFC North team in action Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals, who lost to the Browns in Week 9, are one of four teams on a bye week.
Pittsburgh holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Cleveland from its Week 8 victory, but it never hurts to have some security in the division standings with how close things have been.
Cleveland heads to Gillette Stadium on Sunday without running back Nick Chubb, who was ruled out on Friday after he returned a positive COVID-19 test earlier in the week. The Browns won without Chubb and many others against the Denver Broncos in Week 7, but facing the New England Patriots is a much tougher assignment.
New England owns a three-game winning streak, and it held two of its past three opponents under 14 points.
Pittsburgh has to root for Baker Mayfield and D'Ernest Johnson to have trouble moving the ball on the Foxborough turf.
If the Browns lose, they would drop to 5-5 and last place in the division. They would also suffer their fourth conference defeat, which could be huge if tiebreakers are needed to determine the AFC North crown or AFC wild-card spots.
New England is a threat to Pittsburgh's playoff status as well, but it needs to focus on the divisional race and what it needs there before taking into account the wild-card situation.
Chiefs over Raiders
Pittsburgh's rooting interest in the Sunday night game is a bit complicated to decipher.
Kansas City is below the Steelers in the standings, while Las Vegas sits in the first wild-card position because of its head-to-head win over the AFC North side. Since the Steelers lost to the Las Vegas Raiders, they need to finish ahead of them in the win column, which leads to them rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Pittsburgh also has the fortune of playing Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium in Week 16. That game is part of a brutal four-game closing stretch that also features matchups with the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland and Baltimore.
The Steelers can control their own playoff fate with wins in those games. It can't control what it does in comparison to the Raiders because that opportunity is long gone.
While it may seem counterintuitive to root for Patrick Mahomes and Co. to get back in the playoff hunt, it makes sense in the context of what the Steelers have left on their schedule.
Eagles over Broncos
Pittsburgh's scoreboard-watching interests should focus on the games in New England and Las Vegas.
At least two of the 5-4 teams in the AFC are guaranteed to lose, and that clears up where the Steelers stand in a potential wild-card hunt as long as they beat the Lions.
Since Cincinnati is on a bye and Baltimore already played, the Steelers should root for the other 5-4 team in the AFC to go down on home soil. The Denver Broncos surprised us all with a dominant road win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9. They return home in Week 10 to face the Philadelphia Eagles.
A Philadelphia win seems unlikely given the trajectory of both teams, but the Broncos could be in a prime letdown spot after their emotional win in Texas last time out.
The Eagles were competitive with the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 9, but they were unable to stop their opponent's passing attack. If Philadelphia sharpens its approach in the secondary, it could find a way to limit Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and others Sunday.
If the Steelers' cross-state rival pulls off the road win, they would presumably be one game ahead of the Broncos in the win column with a head-to-head tiebreaker in hand from Week 5.