NFL playoff picture, Week 12: Can the Steelers stay in the AFC race?

Andy Lyons

There's a dog fight for the two Wild Card spots in the AFC. Can the Steelers hang on to one?

The San Diego Chargers have little to no shot at making the playoffs this year, but Norv Turner's team at least managed to shape the NFL playoff picture in the confusing AFC, blowing a lead and dropping a game to the Baltimore Ravens. That win kept Baltimore in the second spot in the AFC, the least-convincing 9-2 team.

More: NFC playoff picture | Best 4th down conversion of the year

Here's the current seeding in the AFC, as of Week 12:

1. Houston Texans (10-1, AFC South)
2. Baltimore Ravens (9-2, AFC North)
3. New England Patriots (8-3, AFC East)
4. Denver Broncos (8-3, AFC West)
5. Indianapolis Colts (7-4, Wild Card)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5, Wild Card)

Take a look at the division leaders, all of those teams have a comfortable margin at this point in the year. This is the AFC, ladies and gentlemen.

The Ravens could eliminate the Steelers from contention for the division lead next week. After watching Charlie Batch play this week, it looks like a foregone conclusion. Pittsburgh turned the ball over eight times to the Browns on Sunday. It was ugly. It was also a reminder of just how much trouble the Steelers could have with Ben Roethlisberger on the shelf.

Houston escaped Detroit with a win on Thanksgiving to keep on top of the AFC standings. The Colts are a nice story and have a good shot at the postseason, but it doesn't seem like Andrew Luck et al are quite ready to challenge the Texans. Those two teams play twice in the final three weeks of the season.

Outside Looking In

Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) - If you had to bet on a team to play its way into one of the AFC Wild Card spots, it's the Bengals. No, beating Oakland is no great feat, but the win this week does put the Bengals at 6-5. The way the Steelers are struggling, Cincinnati looks like a lock to switch places. The Bengals are in San Diego next week, hosting Dallas the week after, and on the road in Philadelphia after that. In Week 16, the Bengals play the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Miami Dolphins (5-6) - Being the second-best team in the AFC East is a dubious distinction. The Dolphins will play the Patriots, the top team in the division, next week, with another date against Brady, et al. in Week 17. Miami also plays the 49ers during that stretch. A playoff berth looks tough.

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