Use this thread to comment on Week 12's early games in the National Football League. With Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu scratched from Pittsburgh's game with Baltimore on Sunday night, I'd imagine that many Steelers fans will be a bit more interested to see how other relevant AFC teams fare tomorrow and in the forthcoming weeks.
We know this team has the talent to play with anybody. But we also have been faced with the reality that something's a bit 'off' this year - at least up until this point. While us fans cross our fingers and hope things get settled out in time for a potential playoff run, we might find ourselves taking a peek at scores around the league more frequently than we're accustomed to. That's fine by me; just another part of the journey of loving an organization in the NFL year in and year out.
The Steelers by no means are in a situation where they need help to accomplish the goals they set at the start of the season. But at the present moment, I think it's realistic to say that the fate of the 2009 Steelers will be somehow interwoven with the fate of several other AFC teams - in particular, the Jaguars, Dolphins, Broncos, Bengals and Ravens. So if you're watching games early, join fellow fans here to kibbitz about all the action as we nervously wait to see what Dennis Dixon and the Steelers have in store when they take on the Ravens later Sunday evening.
Here's a rundown of which games are televised in your respective markets.
- CBS Early and Late (where applicable) Games (some important AFC games, albeit none that really excite me)
- Fox Early Games (a generally mediocre day for FOX and the NFC)
- Fox Late Games (yuck city here if you don't have Sunday Ticket
I didn't get to this in time to include the three games played yesterday on Turkey Day. But I suppose two of the three played out just as most would expect - Dallas handled Oakland at home (though not overly impressively) and Green Bay dusted Detroit in the Motor City. The third game of the day between the Broncos and Giants was a bit more of a shocker as Denver got back on track with a huge home win over the visiting Giants. I definitely believed that the Giants would keep the Broncos skid going by running the ball down their throats and pressuring Kyle Orton relentlessly, but credit Denver's defense for looking like the unit that helped them jump out to a 6-0 start rather than the group that had been beaten up the past four weeks. And even better to see if you're a Broncos fan was the offense executing once again after a substantial drought in recent weeks.
Denver improves to 7-4 with the win and jumps right back in to the thick of things in the AFC playoff picture. We'll see if they can sustain it though - there's a huge advantage to playing at home on Thanksgiving. The Broncos travel to Kansas City and Indianapolis the next two weeks. They're right back in it with the clutch Turkey Day victory, but a loss against the improving Chiefs next week puts them right back behind the 8-ball. I'll be quite interested to see how that one plays out next weekend.
For now, let's move on to the remaining Week 12 games on Sunday and Monday night.
Seattle Seahawks (3-7) @ St. Louis Rams (1-9)
- Not that I think overly highly of Marc Bulger at this point in his career, but the loss of him will hurt St. Louis in the short term as they finish off the year. I'd probably like the Rams' chances to snag a win at home against the Seahawks, but with Kyle Boller at quarterback, I just don't know how the Rams will get Seattle to do anything but stack the box to limit Steven Jackson's effectiveness. Even still, I still think the Rams are a good value as underdogs here. The Seahawks simply are too beat up and frankly not even that good at full strength, particularly away from home. Seattle hasn't won away from Qwest Field in almost a year. The good news for them I suppose is their last road win was against the Rams. Still, I'll take St. Louis here.
- A brutal loss last weekend for the 'Skins. After holding the Cowboys scoreless for the entire game, Washington finally gave up a touchdown drive late in the 4th quarter and lost 7-6. Can the 'Skins bounce back and compete as tough this weekend against a Philly team that is desperate to get a winning streak going? The betting public sure doesn't think so. The line is 9.5 points - a fairly high line considering how tough these two teams have played each other in recent memory - and it appears most of the money is still coming down on the side of the Eagles. I'll take Philadelphia to win but not cover.
Cleveland Browns (1-9) @ Cincinnati Bengals (7-3)
- Interesting game here. Can the Bengals put last week's catastrophic meltdown behind them and take care of business against the lowly Browns? For the first time in seemingly forever, the Browns offense looked good this past Sunday. Yes it was the Lions and yes they still lost, but it wouldn't surprise me if Cleveland played decently on that side of the ball again on Sunday. Cleveland kept it close against Cincinnati the first time these two teams met earlier in the season. 14 points is too high of a line for this game, but clearly Cincinnati should emerge with their 8th win of the season.
Carolina Panthers (4-6) @ New York Jets (4-6)
- Both the Panthers and the Jets had their playoff hopes diminished greatly last week with losses that dropped them to 4-6. The Jets in particular are in a world of trouble and will probably need to win the remainder of their games to even have a chance. It's not happening though. Mark Sanchez has been far too sloppy with the ball for the Jets to remain competitive. With his 4 INTs against New England last week, Sanchez now has a league-leading 16 on the year and an astoundingly poor INT Rate of 6.0%. I like Carolina in this one for several reasons, but one of them being that they will have had 10 days to prepare for this one after having played on Thursday night last week. In my opinion, a great value to win outright as underdogs.
Indianapolis Colts (10-0) @ Houston Texans (5-5)
- The Texans prove they're still the Texans by losing a close home game last Monday against the surging Tennessee Titans. That's two games now that kicker Kris Brown has cost Houston. But if it's not one thing, it's another with this franchise. Has been since they entered the league just over a year ago. Can they right the ship this Sunday at home against the undefeated Colts? Probably not. They've beaten Indy just once in fifteen tries. But Peyton Manning is a bit banged up so who knows. If they can somehow get him out of the game perhaps they save their season. But it's not too likely. I'll take Indianapolis to extend their domination over the Texans and remain unbeaten.
- I wrote in this column last week that I thought the Bills might take a few more chances, play a bit more 'loosely' and generally perform a bit better in the first few games under new interim coach Perry Fewell. Last week they were a bit better but still managed to find a way to lose to the Jaguars 15-18. Terrell Owens had his first big game as a BIll though with nearly 200 yards receiving in the loss. Can they take down the Dolphins at home in a critical game for Miami? I'm having a hard time on this on. I suppose I like Miami in a close one but having said that (any Curb Your Enthusiasm fans?) I like Buffalo as a good value underdog to win outright; and I'd be somewhat surprised if Miami were to cover the 3 1/2.
- Do or die for the Falcons this weekend. The NFC is a jumbled mess in the middle of the pack so a win here by the Falcons and they're in plenty good shape. This team's not very good though - not physical enough on defense and Matt Ryan's enduring the dreaded sophomore slump. I like Atlanta here though.
- The debut of the spread offense this Sunday in San Francisco? So said Mike Singletary earlier in the week, though he was less candid about what form exactly the 49ers' version of the spread would look like. Color me skeptical for now. We'll learn a lot about Jacksonville this next two weeks. They first must make that very long trip from the southeast to northern California to take on a 49ers team that was emotionally flat last week during the beat down Green Bay gave them. They then travel to Indianapolis next weekend to take on the 1st place Colts. First things first though for the current #5 seed in the AFC. I think the Jags will see San Francisco's best effort on Sunday, particularly on defense. I don't see desire or maximum intensity being an issue for the second week in a row. Mike Singletary wants 'winners'. Fortunately for the Jags, I don't think San Francisco has enough offense to scare anybody. This one will hinge on San Francisco's ability to at least minimize the number of big plays (25+ yard runs) Maurice Jones-Drew has and to create a couple of turnovers to set up their offense. Quite torn on this one as well. I really want San Francisco to win, so perhaps I'm tricking myself in to thinking they have a better chance than they reall do. I guess at the end of the day I'd say I like Jacksonville to win and earn their 6th W in their past 8 games.
- Who knows what we'll get out of Dennis Dixon tomorrow. It's obviously storyline #1 heading in to the game. That said, this game might really hinge on the Steelers defense and whether or not they can play their finest game of the year. It sure would help if Troy Polamalu were able to go. Even still, something tells me the defense will still play very well and keep the Steelers offense right in the game. What the O will do with that opportunity remains to be seen. I sure am cheering for Dixon though. Great kid from all accounts. What a huge moment for him to get his first legitimate NFL action.
- Goodness, you'd have to think Minnesota was due for an off game one of these weeks, no? Probably not this week. Chicago's defense is pathetic. I'll take Minnesota.
- Vegas currently has this line at 3 in favor of the home Tennessee Titans. The betting public has spoken out against that line, with it paying (-130) for the Cardinals to cover. Hmm. On the one hand, you have to acknowledge how good the Cardinals have been away from home this year. They're a perfect 5-0 with their most recent win coming last weekend in St. Louis. I love what Ken Whisenhunt's done with that program, and I like their chances to return to the NFC Championship game this year. But I actually like Tennessee in this spot to keep their tremendous momentum going for at least another week. The offense has been quite impressive for the Titans during their 4 game winning streak, but it's really the improved play of the defense that has them looking like a really scary out for any team that's got them left on their schedule and is vying for a playoff berth or positioning. It's crazy to believe, but the Titans could very well be just one game out (not including tiebreaker considerations) after this weekend if the Jags and Steelers both lose their road contests.
- We're running long here so I'll keep this one brief. I like the Saints to thrash New England - at least on offense. Not sure if the Saints defense will be able to confuse New England, but I think they'll be able to feed off the rocking crowd of the Super Dome and do just enough to support a great showing by Drew Brees and the explosive Saints offense.