Here is a look at some of the Week 16 games that ultimately could impact the Steelers' playoff possibilities and then seeding if they qualify:
SUNDAY AFTERNOON** CLEVELAND (3-11) at KANSAS CITY (9-5)
Browns are fourth in the AFC North
Chiefs are second in the AFC West
Skinny: On an eight-game winning streak now, the Chiefs have won 2 of the last 3 in this series, and Coach Andy Reid is a perfect 5-0 all-time vs. the Browns. Last week, KC became 1st team in NFL history with a 90 yard INT-TD (rookie CB MARCUS PETERS, 90 yards) & a 70 yard FR-TD (S TYVON BRANCH, 73 yards) in same game … In past 7, QB JOHNNY MANZIEL has completed 103 of 167 (61.7 pct.) for 1,182 yards with 6 TDs vs. 3 INTs. LB KARLOS DANSBY leads team with 99 tackles & 3 INTs. Since 2004, is only NFL player with 40 sacks (41) & 15 INTs (19).
Impact on the Steelers: It might just be time for Steelers fans to start rooting for the Chiefs to win. Should Denver lose one of its two remaining games – vs. Cincinnati and vs. San Diego – and the Chiefs beat the Browns and Raiders, then Kansas City would win the AFC West and the Broncos would enter the playoffs as a Wild Card. I see that benefitting the Steelers, because a road game in Denver seems more daunting than a return trip to Kansas City, where the Steelers lost earlier this year, albeit with Landry Jones starting at quarterback instead of Ben Roethlisberger.
INDIANAPOLIS (6-8) at MIAMI (5-9)
Colts are second in the AFC South
Dolphins are fourth in the AFC East
Skinny: In only career start vs. Mia, QB MATT HASSELBECK passed for 230 yards with 2 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 107.7 rating, but that happened 13 years ago when Hasselbeck played in Seattle. K ADAM VINATIERI (499) needs 1 made FG to become 3rd NFL player with 500 career … In past 10, QB RYAN TANNEHILL has passed for 2,449 yards with 15 TDs vs. 6 INTs for 92.4 rating. In past 2 at home, RB LAMAR MILLER is averaging 103.5 scrimmage yards & has 2 rush TDs.
Impact on the Steelers: Would the Steelers prefer Houston or Indianapolis to win the AFC South, and with that, enter the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the AFC? This would only matter to them if they managed to get into the playoffs as the No. 5 seed, which travels to the No. 4 seed in the Wild Card Round. But for the Steelers to be the No. 5 seed, Kansas City would have to lose one of its remaining games, and that would send Denver into the playoffs as a division champion, which could set up a possible trip there for the Steelers to face the Broncos. In my mind, going to Denver would be a more difficult assignment than having to travel either to Indianapolis or Houston, and so the Chiefs winning the AFC West is better in the overall scheme of things than worrying about whether the Texans or Colts win the AFC South.
NEW ENGLAND (12-2) at NEW YORK JETS (9-5)
Patriots are first in the AFC East
Jets are second in the AFC East
Skinny: New England has won 9 of the last 10 meetings in this series, and Bill Belichick is 24-11 all-time against the Jets. The Patriots have clinched 1st-round bye for 6th consecutive season, longest streak since current playoff format began in 1990. Won 7th consecutive AFC East title, tied for longest streak in history (1973-79 Rams). QB TOM BRADY has won 9 of past 10 starts vs. NYJ … During the Jets' current four-game winning streak, QB RYAN FITZPATRICK has passed for 1,229 yards with 10 TDs vs. 1 INT for 105.7 rating. In past 12, DE MUHAMMAD WILKERSON has 11 sacks & 2 FF.
Impact on the Steelers: This one is simple and straightforward: If the Steelers beat the Ravens, and the Patriots beat the Jets, the Steelers clinch a playoff spot. Go, Patriots.
HOUSTON (7-7) at TENNESSEE (3-11)**
Texans are first in AFC South
Titans are fourth in AFC South
Skinny: The Texans have won 6 of the past 7 meetings in this series, and Coach BILL O'BRIEN is 3-0 all-time vs. Tennessee. If QB BRIAN HOYER does not clear the concussion protocol, BRANDON WEEDEN will make his second start for the Texans. In past 19, J.J. WATT has 24.5 sacks, 3 FF, FR, safety, 7 PDs & TD catch. Since 2011, leads NFL with 70.5 sacks … The Titans will start ZACH METTENBERGER at QB, and last week he completed 20 of 28 (71.4 pct.) for season-high 242 yards with 2 TDs for 91.7 rating. Rookie WR DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM has 100 rec. yards in 2 of past 3, incl. 6 rec. for team-high 113 yards vs. NE.
Impact on the Steelers: As explained above in the Indianapolis at Miami capsule, the Chiefs winning the AFC West seems more advantageous for the Steelers than picking between the Colts or Texans to emerge as the winner of the AFC South. If Marcus Mariota was starting at quarterback, the Titans could have had a puncher's chance in this game. The Texans win the division if they close with wins over the Titans and Jaguars, and if they cannot accomplish that then they don't deserve to be in the playoffs.
MONDAY NIGHT** CINCINNATI (11-3) at DENVER (10-4)
Bengals are first in the AFC North
Broncos are first in the AFC West
Skinny: In 1st NFL start, Bengals QB A.J. MC CARRON completed 15 of 21 (71.4 pct.) for 192 yards with 1 TD vs. 0 INTs for 115.6 rating. S REGGIE NELSON leads NFL with career-high 8 INTs & needs 2 to tie club record (DELTHA O'NEAL, 10 in 2005). Had INT in last meeting … In last meeting, WR DEMARYIUS THOMAS had 7 rec. for 115 yards. Since 2010, has 46 TD rec., 2nd-most among AFC WRs. QB BROCK OSWEILER was 3-0 in his first three career starts, but is 0-2 since, and the Broncos didn't score in either of those two second halves.
Impact on the Steelers: The Bengals clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye with a win. If Kansas City wins both of its games, the Broncos would need to win both of their games to finish atop the AFC West. So in other words, two Kansas City wins would send the Broncos into the playoffs as a Wild Card if the Bengals win this game. I would rather the Bengals win the AFC North and the Steelers face a possible game in Cincinnati, as opposed to the Broncos winning this game and only needing to defeat the Chargers to win the AFC West and set up a possible Steelers trip to Denver. Winning the AFC North isn't that important. Go, Bengals.