Steelers Wrap Up AFC North

The Pittsburgh Steelers sealed up the AFC North this evening with a surprisingly easy 17-7 victory over the listless Tampa Bay Bucs. The victory wiped out any chance the Browns have to win the AFC North and put the team's remaining playoff hopes fully on various ways they could land a wild card spot.

The Buccaneers struggled this evening against Pittsburgh, as the team's backup quarterback Shaun King had difficulty converting opportunities into points. The Bucs twice fumbled deep in Pittsburgh territory, and an early King interception gave Pittsburgh just about all the points they would need. King's ineffectiveness led to his being replaced by Rob Johnson during the second half.

The victory takes Pittsburgh to 9-5-1, putting them a game-and-a-half in front of the 8-7 Browns, and sealing up the AFC North for Bill Cowher's team.

The Browns now rely on a number of different scenarios to make the playoffs as a Wild Card. A victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday is required for the team to have any realistic chance of playing in the playoffs.

According to the NFL, as posted on their web site, the Browns must beat the Falcons and hope for one of a number of increasingly bizarre scenarios. In fact, the NFL sort of gives up trying to figure it out after about six scenarios are listed.

The Browns are now fighting it out with the Colts (9-6), Dolphins (9-6), Jets, Patriots, Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers (all 8-7) for a Wild Card spot. At least one 9-7 team will advance to the playoffs.

Because it's all hopelessly confusing, we'll simplify it even further here and not worry about ties. Ties are improbable due to overtime, and the mathematics here are complicated enough already. Next week's games of interest are:

KC at Oakland, 5PM

Miami at New England, 1PM
Green Bay at NY Jets, 4:15PM
Arizona at Denver 4:15PM

The Browns can get in, if they win, and one of the following occurs:

  • Broncos beat Cards, Jets beat Packers
  • Raiders beat Chiefs, Jets beat Packers
  • Broncos beat Cards, Dolphins beat Patriots
  • Raiders beat Chiefs, Dolphins beat Patriots

An even less likely scenario exists where the Browns can get in if the Patriots, Chargers, Jets, Ravens, Broncos, and Chiefs lose. Whatever. There are even Browns playoffs scenarios beyond that, supposedly, but the statisticians working for the NFL refused to consider them because they would cause laymen's heads to explode if made publicly available.

This will get a lot simpler on Saturday night after the Chiefs and Raiders play. Less than five days after gaining, and then losing, a certain fondness for the Tampa Bay Bucs, Browns fans are going to suddenly become Raiders fans this coming Saturday.

Go, er, Raiders. Sure.

- AB

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