Who still has a shot?
- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)
Pittsburgh is currently in the lead in the AFC North, but they’re far from safe at this point. With the Baltimore Ravens at 6-5, Pittsburgh can’t get comfortable as the playoffs approach. The next five games for the Steelers may be the toughest stretch they’ve faced all season. Three of their next five games are games they could easily lose, having to play the 8-3 Los Angeles Chargers, 8-3 New England Patriots and 10-2 New Orleans Saints.
If the Steelers were to lose all three of those games, winning the other two, they’d finish with a record of 9-6-1. Would that be enough to win their division? Now we have to take into consideration who the 6-5 Baltimore Ravens still have to play. Their schedule puts them up against the 4-7 Atlanta Falcons, 9-2 Kansas City Chiefs, 4-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8-3 Los Angeles Chargers and the 4-6-1 Cleveland Browns.
You can bank of the Ravens losing at least one more game this season, especially with the Chiefs and Chargers still to come. I’ll discuss more about the Ravens and their playoff chances shortly, but for now let’s just say I think the Steelers are winning this division.
- Los Angeles Chargers (8-3)
I’m a believer in Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers. Rivers is having a great season and is a dark horse MVP candidate. While this may be the case, the Chargers aren’t out of the woods in the AFC Wild Card race.
Their schedule has them matched up against the 7-3-1 Pittsburgh Steelers this week, followed by games against the 5-6 Cincinnati Bengals, 9-2 Kansas City Chiefs, 6-5 Baltimore Ravens and 5-6 Denver Broncos.
Four of the Chargers’ last five games should give Chargers fans at least some reason to worry. The Steelers have an offense averaging 28.7 points per game, while the Chiefs average 36.7 points per game. Although it was the first week of the NFL season, the Chargers already lost to the Chiefs once.
After those two games against offensive power house’s, the Chargers’ road in the AFC Wild Card race doesn’t get any easier. They finish the season against the defense’s of the Ravens and Broncos. Baltimore currently holds the league’s top defense, allowing an average of 18.0 points per game.
Denver’s defense ranks 13th in points allowed per game (22.9 average), but they’ve recently helped the Broncos earn wins over the Chargers and Steelers, so the Chargers can’t sleep on them.
I believe the Chargers will earn the fifth spot in the AFC Wild Card race when everything is said and done, but it won’t be an easy road for them.