I'll leave analysis of today's very satisfying smack down of Oakland to others. I'm looking longer-term. A big "no-no" in the NFL, but I'm just that sort of guy. I'm looking at the divisional race between our Steelers and those hated Baltimore Ravens. The way these two teams are playing, eleven wins won't win the division. Twelve might not, either.
I think every Steeler fan was muttering to themselves after our home loss on October 3rd "wait 'till we get our QB back. Then we'll get you...." I was hoping the December 2 collision wouldn't be for all the marbles in the division. I was hoping that Baltimore would be exposed for the frauds I wished they were. It's time to lay some respect. Baltimore is for real.
The have six remaining games, and only two are on the road, at Houston for MNF (12/13) and at Cleveland (12/26). The rest (Tampa, PIT, NO and Cin) are all at home. If the Saints game were in the dome, I could pencil a reasonable loss for the Ravens, but the game is outdoors in Baltimore in mid-December. No big passing game from Brees and the Saints there. Today Cincinnati proved they've given up on the season. Tampa and the Browns might be frisky, but they're not ready for the real deal yet. Other than the game against the Steelers, the Monday night tilt at Houston might be the only other loss the Ravens collect this season. Their all time MNF record isn't great (7-8) and Houston passes the ball very well indoors on their own field.
Switching over to our home town heroes, the Steelers have six games remaining, with an even split between home and away. I'm assuming wins at Buffalo (next week), vs Cin (12/12), vs Carolina (12/23) and at Browns (1/2). This leaves the games at Baltimore and the Jets coming to Pittsburgh on the 19th. Santonio Holmes coming back to play his old team. Like him or not, the guy shows up in big games. Jets D isn't something as easy as the Raiders; if Ariens tries to air it out......*shudder*. I'm figuring an 11 win season as we stand right now, and that wouldn't win the division. That 12th win must come against Baltimore, and even then we might have to win out if Baltimore did. We would then win the division with a better division record.
Lose the Baltimore game and then both teams win out (not impossible at all), and the Steelers would be a 12-4 wild card going on the road to (probably) the AFC west winner (KC or SD) followed by a trip to New England or back to Baltimore. I don't think anyone wants to face Belichick at his place after he's had a bye week to prepare.
The AFC North winner will probably have the 2 seed, with the 1 going to the East. After the 2008 win, I believe the AFC championship home demons have been exorcised and would rather have a bye to let whatever OL iteration the Steelers are down to by then an extra week to prepare, rather than a West coast trip. This game at Baltimore will be for a lot; the division, a probable first round bye will be on the line.
Of course, if the Steelers let Fitzpatrick throw for 4 TDs next week, all this is academic. But I like to know where we stand. The playoff seeding race is going to be very, very tight and the Steelers might have to win out. What a season!