For the second time in as many weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers will play in the late afternoon time slot. Their Week 8 opponent? The New England Patriots. For Steelers and Patriots fans, it will be a long morning and early afternoon waiting for the 4:15 pm EST kickoff from Heinz Field.
So, while we wait, congregate here to chit chat about the early game action as it unfolds. Here's the games I'm keeping my eye on in Week 8, most of which interestingly enough take place in the late afternoon time slot while the Steelers are playing:
- Arizona at Baltimore: I don't really think the Cardinals have much of a chance, but who knows? The Ravens did just crap the bed against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams got an earful from their respective head coaches all week, so expect both teams to come out playing hard. We'll see if Baltimore can rise up and put last Monday night's debacle behind them with a convincing win.
- Jacksonville at Houston: I don't really give a hoot about this one, but crazy as it sounds, the Jaguars are in great shape in the AFC South if they can muster a win in Houston on Sunday. Probably not likely, but I haven't liked hearing folks talk about the South being wrapped up before this Week 8 matchup plays out. If the Texans win, they're in the driver's seat for sure to make their first ever playoff appearance. A loss though and things stay interesting throughout the month of November, and we know how well Houston responds to pressure down the stretch.
- Detroit at Denver: No, it has nothing to do with Tim Tebow. Instead, I'm curious to see how for real this Lions team really is. If they lose to a well below average Denver team, then I'm writing them off as a potential playoff contender. Something tells me they might.
- Cleveland at San Francisco: It ain't been pretty, but at the end of the day, the Browns are 3-3 and in striking distance of their primary competitors in the AFC North and Wild Card race. Can they hang tough, whatever it takes, against a well-rested 49ers team at Candlestick? I kind of think they will at least keep it under a touchdown deficit, and I wouldn't be surprised if the game is in the balance in the game's final minutes. Good teams take care of business at home against visiting teams like the Browns. Are the 49ers there yet?
- Cincinnati at Seattle: If you read the 2011 MSP annual this year, you maybe noticed I wrote that the Bengals would likely be well within striking distance of the Steelers when the teams first meet in mid-November. Seattle might give them a game if Tavaris Jackson can play (don't laugh, I've watched him carefully this year and he's looked pretty solid outside of his struggles against Pittsburgh, and even then he wasn't terrible). Charlie Whitehurst has just been awful in relief of Jackson, but we'll see if the unfathomably real home field advantage Seattle enjoys somehow wills their team to victory against a Bengals team that is still susceptible to head-scratching road losses to inferior teams until they prove otherwise.