Top three storylines that might affect the Steelers
- So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance! There is at least a possibility the Steelers could find themselves all alone atop the AFC North. It’s slim, yes, because it requires the Ravens to lose to the Browns. But it may not be as slim as it seems. The Ravens managed just 13 points last week against a defense that is making Ryan Fitzpatrick seem like a top-ten quarterback as I write this. Meanwhile, the Browns have their annual quarterback rotation at full song already, but the injury to Robert Griffin III may be a bit of a blessing for them: Josh McCown isn’t even a middling quarterback right now, but he has a familiarity with the players that RG3 does not. I’d make the home-field advantage argument, but the Browns typically aren’t the team that enjoys that advantage in Cleveland each week, if you catch my drift.
- Home is where the heart is. This week marks the beginning of a six-game stretch in which the Steelers play four home games. The two road games are against Miami and Baltimore — one should be a solid win, and the other will probably be the toss-up it usually is. The four home games, though, are important because they are all AFC opponents, including the Patriots. In fact, the Steelers play Philadelphia next week, and then don’t have another NFC contest until November 13 against the Cowboys. This upcoming stretch will be critical to the Steelers’ playoff hopes in 2016, and having home-field advantage against the Chiefs, Jets and Patriots is huge.
- It’s always sunny in San Diego. An interesting matchup this weekend: the Chargers host the Jaguars. San Diego and Jacksonville. In San Diego, the weather is so nice that they barely seemed to care that the Chargers could have moved to Los Angeles. In Jacksonville, the weather is always so nice that most of the city still hasn’t realized they have a football team. Either way, this is an AFC matchup between two teams that are both teetering right on the razor’s edge between possibly making the playoffs and sucking so bad they make a Dyson jealous. For both of these teams, there is rarely a “meh” season. Most of the time, they’re either a legit contender for the AFC crown or for the top draft pick.
Best game of the week with no hypocycloids
Kansas City @ Houston
When this is the best game of the week, you’ve either entered the Twilight Zone, or...it’s week two of the season, and it’s impossible to gauge any team yet. The reality is there are a lot of decent games this week, but none that are spectacular except the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati matchup (which I’m not allowed to use here, or it wouldn’t be called the “Best game of the week with no hypocycloids”). This one does, however, feature two teams that won their season openers. Out of 16 games, only five feature such a matchup — and we already know I can’t feature one of them here. The others are: Atlanta versus Oakland, the game where the defenses may as well not suit up, since they didn’t last week, either; the Packers against a team that may very well be quarterbacked by Shaun Hill; and a game in which Jay Cutler is playing. As much as I would like to put the Green Bay-Minnesota game here based solely on the fact that it’s a division game, I seriously expect that one to be out of hand by halftime. By process of elimination, we get...Kansas City at Houston. Sadly, that is both the best and worst thing I can say about this game. Give it a few weeks and this section will be more interesting. Probably no more informative, but at least the snark will be more focused.
Worst game of the week, a.k.a. Par for the Thursday Night Football Course
Bills @ Jets
The worst game of the week is happening as I write this. I truly didn’t want to include anything about this game since it will be done by the time you read these words, but the truth is that most of the games this week should at least feature actual football content. This one, however, would be making me want to watch Olympic synchronized swimming reruns if the bad wasn’t so absurdly spectacular.
Based solely on the fact that both of these teams looked pretty awful last week, I expected tonight’s game to be ugly. It’s exceeding my expectations. The Jets’ passing defense has been terrible. Here’s how bad: Greg Salas’ 71-yard touchdown was not the longest score given up by the Jets; the 84-yard bomb to Marquise Goodwin was. Darrelle Revis has been picked on more than a scab on a four-year-old’s knee. But, not to be outdone, Tyrod Taylor is 10 of 20 for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception right now. Sounds good until you take out those two touchdowns; then he becomes 8 of 18 for 49 yards and an interception. It’s so bad that it’s hard to look away.
Five pointless points
- Thanks to Eli Rogers, all I need is some duct tape and a Sharpie and my mothballed Mike Wallace jersey is useful again. I feared I’d have to root for the team to bring Wallace back just to get one more season out of it. Rogers, however, has made the number 17 worthy again in Pittsburgh.
- Rob Ryan in the Bills’ Color Rush gear is insulting to shopping mall Santa Clauses everywhere.
- The Cowboys-Redskins game features two teams that have a combined two touchdowns between them. Among the other 30 teams, there are 10 individual players (excluding quarterbacks, of course) who have scored two touchdowns.
- Two of those ten players play for the Steelers.
- If — and this is a huuuuuge if — the Steelers can find a way to at least limit A.J. Green on Sunday, they will win it going away. Why? Because Green accounted for, quit literally, almost exactly half of the Bengals’ passing offense last week. Quarterback Andy Dalton had 23 completions for 366 yards; Green had 12 catches for 180 yards and Cincinnati’s lone receiving touchdown. If the Pittsburgh secondary can manage to hold him to around 100 yards on six or so catches and get consistent pressure against a shaky interior offensive line without resorting to blitzing heavily, then the Steelers win by at least two scores.
Oh, and Vontaze Burfict is still a jagoff.