Lord knows ESPN has their fully engorged hype-boner going "OMFG!!1! AFC SHOWDOWNS ON SUNDAY & MONDAY NIGHTS" and "BIG BEN IN A BOOT!!! WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!?!?1ZOMG!!" I swear, it's only a matter of time until the ABC/ESPN/Disney/Pixar/Exxon/Cheerios/Tampon conglomerate has the ability to directly siphon from my pay-check.
/buys domain sportsdirectdeposit.com
With the apparent separation between the four teams playing in these two games, it would seem as though a win would put the respective victors on the fast track to first-round playoff byes. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Casting aside all hyperbole and promotion, this game is about one thing: The division title. Too many factors are in play to determine who will DEFINITELY take it, but with Baltimore already owning a win over us and both the Ravens & Steelers facing a similar remaining schedule, this is likely it, folks.
Steelers remaining opponents' record: 15-28
Ravens remaining opponents' record: 19-25
Either outcome will leave us looking around at possible foes/matchups. So let's see what's in store for us as of now.
NY Jets (9-2):
I don't really think there is any way The Jets take this game. Or the AFC East, for that matter. The Pats don't lose at home under Brady. Rex is a good motivator. Belicheck is a better coach. The streak of close-call wins for NY ends with this game. In fact, with Pittsburgh & Chicago road games still on their schedule, there's an outside chance New York could get paced by the Chiefs/Chargers loser for top Wild Card spot.
New England (9-2):
Do you want to know a big part of why the Patriots don't lose often? Going back as far as Belicheck has been their coach, they haven't lost to a divisional opponent twice in the same regular season. Ever. As if any Steeler fan who saw their team diced by a prepared, methodical offense a few weeks ago needs to hear it: That's coaching. The Pats will face Green Bay in Foxboro in 3 weeks, another prime time game. I'm guessing it will cement for New England a first-round bye.
Joe Flacco and Ray Rice will not win the game for the Ravens Sunday. Neither are in the league's top 10 in any meaningful category. Receiving? Boldin is 32nd in the league with under 60 y/p. It's the defense. The defense has held almost every team they've beat to under 17 points (they went the route of shoot-out with Buffalo and nearly lost). So, should we be worried? If Harbaugh was paying attention to our MNF disaster, he'll try and dink and dunk to Heap, Mason and whoever is coming out of the backfield. That could be enough to muster a troublesome attack, but not one that would decimate Pittsburgh. Certainly, the return of Ed Reed has been a boon for the secondary and defense on the whole. But at the worst, the Steelers' numbers are a push with theirs. Still, Roethlisberger has a pretty good track record against teams that are predicated on a pass-rush. And an even more impressive record against the Ravens. Lastly, injuries and their impact cannot be overstated. Michael Oher could be out. Keisel could be back. Obviously, Ben's foot will be the center of much discussion as well. In such a physical contest, I'd expect some in-game casualties as well. Predictions are meaningless, but I like our chances.
"How The West Will be One"
Kansas City (7-4):
The phrase, "If the playoffs started today..." is by definition, moot. They don't. Having said that, if they did, we'd get these guys. About the only thing Kansas City has going for them is their ground attack. Up until now, it has been enough. A one dimensional team predicated on the run SHOULD play right in to our hands. If we do end up facing them, it'd be an acceptable consolation for the division, I suppose. Their matchup with surging San Diego in two weeks will determine whether they are for real, though a weak schedule could still let them back in as a Wild Card.
San Diego (6-5):
Here we are again. I shouldn't care that much that the Chargers are back in the positive side of the W/L column, except for the fact that I cannot help but notice what a complete football team they are. And how they, as opposed to all of the other squads with 5 losses (hell, 4 losses) would be MUCH tougher opponent in the playoffs. Sure, we handled them here 2 years ago and if push came to shove, the Steelers' D would give the Chargers problems. But I simply don't want it to come to that. With both a top-ranked D and pass attack (with people off the street catching balls, no less) it's looking like one way or the other, San Diego is going to make it to January. What's more, their schedule is now looking like cake. Four opponents with losing records and three straight home games, one of which is Kansas City. Steeler fans should be pulling Kansas City. Damn.
"Put Them Out of Their Misery"
Not wasting much time, here. A game or two away, which will result in me having to drown out Dolphin fan's bitching about their loss to us. If I knew any Dolphin fans, that is. The best they can hope for is to be vanquished in the final week against New England.
"The Entire AFC South. Still."
If Garrard doesn't go this Sunday (injured hand), then it'll have a massive impact on this whole house of cards. With the Titans imploding, a loss to them would be devastating for Jacksonville. Jags/Titans is essentially an elimination game as only one team is coming out of the South from the look of things.
I don't care if he threw 3 picks. I don't care if their defense is porous from all the injuries, their on their 3rd RB and their WRs don't catch any more. A playoffs without Pay-Pey is an easier road, plain and simple. The Colts are horrible against the run and horrible running it (29th in both), but with Tennessee on their schedule twice, they could easily take this division.
Games at Philly and then home against Baltimore. Lose just one more and they're done. With two talents like Arians and Johnson, this is a real shame. If you can't stop the pass, you can't ice games. Puhleeeeeze let Andre Johnson fight Ray Lewis or Terrell Suggs.
You're looking at your NEW suicide league horse, right here. 3rd string QBs don't typically lead playoff pushes. Another shame, as Chris Johnson is a beast, but is completely neutralized as he's their only weapon at this point.
Raider fans have to be somewhat pleased. Jacoby Ford looks good. Darren McFadden is not, as it turns out, a bust and the defense is above average (when healthy). Sure, Campbell nor Gradkowski are franchise saviors, but they've got some real building blocks. Four remaining playoff contenders on their slate means they are dead in the water. It also means they'll have a big say in who makes the dance...
Will be interesting to see if Mangini still has a post come off season. Peyton Hillis and Colt McCoy could be haunting our dreams in future seasons.
Im-plo-sion. Wow. Maybe Pat Bowlen will have more respect for Shanahan, now. Brandon Lloyd is a freak. My fantasy team would like to thank Kyle Orton.
They'll win a few, yet.
Nothing pleases me more than to put these guys down here. I would like it if Marv Lewis makes a move to the NFC, however.
EAST: New England (13-3)
NORTH: Pittsburgh (11-5)
SOUTH: Indianapolis (10-6)
WEST: San Diego (10-6)
New York (12-4)
Baltimore (11-5) (Loss to Bengals bites them in the ass)
(don't hold me to this stuff...)