By, Chris G.
It is only the fifth week of the season, but could a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles mean the Pittsburgh Steelers will miss the playoffs?
Not technically, but the odds would not be very good, especially considering the Steelers’ competition in the AFC North.
The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals sit in a tie for first place at 3-1. There is a good chance that both teams win this week as well.
Cincinnati plays at home against the Miami Dolphins while Baltimore will travel to Kansas City to play against the Chiefs. While no outcome is for certain, both teams should take care of business and move to four wins.
A third loss in four weeks would all but end the Steelers’ shot at a division title and they would likely hope to sneak into the playoffs as the third place finisher in the AFC North.
According to MakeNFLPlayoffs.com, their odds of winning the division have fallen from 19.5 percent to 16.1 percent and the odds of making the playoffs from 37.5 percent to 28.5 percent.
Odds aren’t even needed to figure that out—going 2-2 gives a team a much better chance at making the playoffs than starting the season 1-3.
Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks reported that since the playoff field expanded to 12 in 1990, 35.6 percent of teams that started the year 2-2 or worse have made the playoffs.
However, when only 1-3 teams are included, those odds drop to only 14.7 percent of teams in the past 12 seasons according to ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert.
Michael Signora reported that at least one team starting 1-3 has made the playoffs in eight of those 12 seasons. While this is encouraging, it is still should not make the Steelers feel very confident.
Last season, the Steelers made the playoffs after starting the season 2-2, but they face a tough challenge on Sunday against the Eagles.
The bye week did allow for the Steelers to get some key players back in the lineup and provided the team with an extra week to prepare for the offensive attack of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson.
But even with a win, the Steelers still have seven very tough games on the schedule including four games against the AFC North leading Ravens and Bengals, away games against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys and a home game against the San Diego Chargers.
On top of that, the two games against the Cleveland Browns and matchups against the Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs cannot be considered automatic wins, either.
It may still be early, but the Steelers do not want to get into a hole that they cannot dig themselves out of. The game against the Eagles is a must-win if the Steelers wish to be a playoff contender in 2012.