Steelers' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 14

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2021

Steelers' Rooting Guide for NFL Playoff Implications of Week 14

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff hopes took a huge hit with their 36-28 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football. 

    After falling behind 29-0, the Steelers put up a commendable effort to come back. But it was too little, too late as the Vikes held on. As a result, the Steelers playoff chances fell to 9 percent, per FiveThirtyEight

    That doesn't mean the playoffs are completely out of reach. The Steelers have some dysfunction to deal with, but stranger things have happened down the stretch, and Pittsburgh is always a threat to get in the postseason. 

    But, at this point, they will need some things to bounce their way and start winning football games. They can't do anything about the second part this week, but there are certainly some outcomes they can root for on Sunday to help them out.

Browns over Ravens

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    Steelers fans are going to have a hard time rooting for anyone in this game, but it is in their best interest to swallow their pride and say "Go Browns" on Sunday. 

    That's because the 6-6 Browns are behind the Steelers and have a chance to drag the Ravens down to 8-5, giving Pittsburgh an outside shot at still winning the division. 

    The AFC North has been tough to predict from week to week. The Bengals swept the Steelers and have a win over the Ravens this season, but they also were blown out by the Browns. The Steelers are 1-0 against both the Browns and Ravens. 

    So when it comes down to it, the lesser of two evils needs to win for the Steelers, and that's the Browns for now. 

    According to ESPN FPI, there's a decent chance it happens, too. The Browns are 53 percent likely to win the game by the metric and only lost by six when the two teams played in Baltimore two weeks ago. 

    With an extra week to rest and prepare, the Browns should have a good game plan and come into the game a little more healthy. 

Buccaneers over Bills

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    It's pretty simple at this point: If there's an NFC team playing a team in the AFC playoff hunt, the Steelers are a big fan of that team. 

    There are plenty of instances of the situation this week. Few of them look to go in the Steelers' favor. The Chargers get the lowly Giants. The Denver Broncos will see the one-win Detroit Lions.

    But the Steelers could be getting some help from Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  

    The Bills currently occupy the final wild-card spot at No. 7 after losing their prime-time game against the New England Patriots. Now they host a good Bucs team with the potential to drop them to three losses in their last four. 

    Things might not be looking up for Pittsburgh right now, but things aren't exactly sunny in Buffalo, either. 

    Meanwhile, Brady's team has reeled off three straight wins with at least 30 points in each. They've got things humming and will be tough to stop even if the weather is unfavorable in Buffalo. 

49ers over Bengals

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    Another NFC vs. AFC matchup that could help them involves fellow AFC North opponent Cincinnati welcoming the San Francisco 49ers to town. 

    The Bengals have been inconsistent throughout the season, and that could help the Steelers down the stretch. Cincinnati has won back-to-back games three times this season but hasn't been able to win three in a row. 

    Last week's loss to the Chargers hurt them, and this week they have serious obstacles. Joe Burrow has had to make adjustments as he prepares to play through a pinkie injury on his throwing hand. 

    The Niners have been even more maddening to understand as a team. They are 6-6 and appeared to be on fire with a three-game winning streak before they lost 30-23 to the Seahawks last week. 

    Still, they will get a crack at a defense that just gave up 41 to the Chargers, so they have plenty of opportunity to put points on the board and help the Steelers make up ground in the division. 

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