Where the Steelers stand in the playoff hunt

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What a difference a week makes. Last Monday the Steelers were on the outside looking in as far as the postseason race is concerned.

One week later, if the playoffs were to start today, the Steelers would be in as the fifth seed and the first wild card team. That just goes to show how tight and wild the race is in the AFC.

The Steelers propelled from the 10th seed to the fifth seed courtesy of a 42-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. If the Steelers remain on track and win their next three games (at Atlanta and home vs. Kansas City and Cincinnati) they will win the AFC North.

The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos continue to lead their divisions and sit at the top of the AFC as the top two seeds with 10-3 records. The Indianapolis Colts lead the AFC South with a 9-4 record and number three seed, while the Bengals are on top of the AFC North at 8-4-1 and hold the fourth spot.

The Steelers, 8-5, are the fifth seed, followed by the San Diego Chargers who are the sixth seed at 8-5 following Sunday night's loss to the Patriots.

With three weeks remaining Baltimore Ravens (8-5), Houston Texans (7-6), Miami Dolphins (7-6), Kansas City (7-6), Buffalo (7-6) and Cleveland (7-6) are all still battling for a spot in the postseason tournament.  

The race for a playoff spot and the AFC North continues to sizzle this week when the Steelers, who are 7-3 in AFC games, will be at Atlanta this Sunday, while the Bengals are at the Browns and the Ravens host the Jaguars.

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NFL Tiebreaking Procedures from NFL.com

The six postseason participants from each conference are seeded as follows:

  1. The division champion with the best record.
  2. The division champion with the second-best record.
  3. The division champion with the third-best record.
  4. The division champion with the fourth-best record.
  5. The Wild Card club with the best record.
  6. The Wild Card club with the second-best record.

The following procedures will be used to break standings ties for postseason playoffs and to determine regular-season schedules.

NOTE: Tie games count as one-half win and one-half loss for both clubs. TO BREAK A TIE WITHIN A DIVISION

If, at the end of the regular season, two or more clubs in the same division finish with identical won-lost-tied percentages, the following steps will be taken until a champion is determined. Two Clubs

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in common games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss Three or More Clubs

(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated during any step, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of the two-club format).

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in common games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss TO BREAK A TIE FOR THE WILD-CARD TEAM

If it is necessary to break ties to determine the two Wild-Card clubs from each conference, the following steps will be taken.

  1. If the tied clubs are from the same division, apply division tie breaker.
  2. If the tied clubs are from different divisions, apply the following steps. Two Clubs
  1. Head-to-head, if applicable.
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  4. Strength of victory.
  5. Strength of schedule.
  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  7. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best net points in conference games.
  9. Best net points in all games.
  10. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  11. Coin toss. Three or More Clubs

(Note: If two clubs remain tied after third or other clubs are eliminated, tie breaker reverts to step 1 of applicable two-club format.)

  1. Apply division tie breaker to eliminate all but the highest ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. The original seeding within a division upon application of the division tie breaker remains the same for all subsequent applications of the procedure that are necessary to identify the two Wild-Card participants.
  2. Head-to-head sweep. (Applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others.)
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
  5. Strength of victory.
  6. Strength of schedule.
  7. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
  8. Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
  9. Best net points in conference games.
  10. Best net points in all games.
  11. Best net touchdowns in all games.
  12. Coin toss

When the first Wild-Card team has been identified, the procedure is repeated to name the second Wild-Card, i.e., eliminate all but the highest-ranked club in each division prior to proceeding to step 2. In situations where three or more teams from the same division are involved in the procedure, the original seeding of the teams remains the same for subsequent applications of the tie breaker if the top-ranked team in that division qualifies for a Wild-Card berth. OTHER TIE-BREAKING PROCEDURES

  1. Only one club advances to the playoffs in any tie-breaking step. Remaining tied clubs revert to the first step of the applicable division or Wild Card tie-breakers. As an example, if two clubs remain tied in any tie-breaker step after all other clubs have been eliminated, the procedure reverts to Step 1 of the two-club format to determine the winner. When one club wins the tiebreaker, all other clubs revert to Step 1 of the applicable two-club or three-club format.
  2. In comparing records against common opponents among tied teams, the best won-lost-tied percentage is the deciding factor, since teams may have played an unequal number of games.
  3. To determine home-field priority among division-titlists, apply Wild Card tie-breakers.
  4. To determine home-field priority for Wild Card qualifiers, apply division tie-breakers (if teams are from the same division) or Wild Card tiebreakers (if teams are from different divisions).
  5. To determine the best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed, add a team's position in the two categories, and the lowest score wins. For example, if Team A is first in points scored and second in points allowed, its combined ranking is "3." If Team B is third in points scored and first in points allowed, its combined ranking is "4." Team A then wins the tiebreaker. If two teams are tied for a position, both teams are awarded the ranking as if they held it solely. For example, if Team A and Team B are tied for first in points scored, each team is assigned a ranking of "1" in that category, and if Team C is third, its ranking will still be "3."
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