Top Three Storylines that Might Affect the Steelers
- Rest for the weary. Interestingly, both the Steelers and the Ravens have their bye weeks this week, meaning they will both be good and rested for their week-nine tilt. Noteable names for the Ravens who were on their final injury report last week: quarterback Joe Flacco; linebackers Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil and C.J. Mosely; wide receivers Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken and Devin Hester; offensive linemen Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley; and defensive back Jimmy Smith. For Pittsburgh, its starting safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden; Defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt; offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert; linebacker Ryan Shazier; and, of course, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Some of those players ultimately played in week seven, but others could be back for week nine, given the extra week of recovery time.
- Maybe Ohio will actually win a football game this week. The other half of the AFC north will be at home, with the Bengals hosting the Redskins and the Browns hosting the Jets. The Bengals’ home-field advantage should help them, but their struggles in the secondary could hurt them, especially against tight end Jordan Reed. Cleveland’s matchup comes against a Jets team whose quarterback controversy lasted all of one week, after a season-ending injury to one-game starter Geno Smith handed Ryan Fitzpatrick his job back. Of course, head coach Todd Bowles hasn’t exactly shown a commitment to, well, commitment, so it’s possible the only NFL team that kept four quarterbacks on its 53-man roster could end up promoting yet another of its slingers ahead of Fitzpatrick if his recent spate of turnovers continues.
- Believe it or not, there’s football outside the AFC North, too. Two key games elsewhere in the AFC could have an effect on things come the post-season, especially now that the Patriots basically have a built-in one game lead on the Steelers due to the head-to-head tie breaker: Denver gets a viit from the rising Chargers, and the Bills host the Patriots. You may remember, Buffalo handed the Patriots their only loss of the season, and in Foxboro, no less. Now, the Bills have home-field advantage, but the Pats have Tom Brady back. Will the Patriots avenge the embarassing shutout loss, or will the Bills sweep the Patriots for the first time since 1999? Oh, and that game in Denver: the teams meet for the second time in 17 days, with San Diego winning the first matchup. The last time San Diego swept Denver was the 2010 season. Both games could have a huge effect on seeding when the playoffs roll around in nine more weeks.
Best Game of the Week with No Hypocycloids
Philadelphia @ Dallas
Dallas is coming off their bye week. Philly is coming off an upset of the last undefeated team in the NFL. Dallas has surprising rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. Philly has the top quarterback taken in the 2016 NFL Draft in Carson Wentz. Dallas has running back Ezekiel Elliot, who leads the league in rushing yards. Philly has about a gazillion running backs. If a certain Dallas receiver stays off the active roster one more week, Dallas probably wins this game. They may also be the only team in the history of the NFL that plays better when their top wide receiver doesn’t see the field.
Worst Game of the Week, a.k.a. Giving Cleveland a Break for a Change
Minnesota @ Chicago
The best defense in the NFL versus an offense led by Jay Cutler. This is going to be as one-sided of a game as you will see this season. Nothing else really needs to be said.
Five Pointless Points
- Is this week’s schedule just that bad, or do the majority of the teams in the NFL truly suck that bad? I’m going to go with the former, partly because I’m just an optimist, and partly because a lot of these games this week just look like one-sided games on paper. But it speaks to the quarterback issues in the league today when there can be so few games worth watching in a single week.
- In honor of Major League Baseball’s World Series going on right now, here’s a non-football detour: Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta is so good, it literally pisses me off. How good is he? He pitched a no-hitter for more than half of Wednesday night’s game. It’s the World Series, for goodness sake! The second-best team in the majors should never take more than half a game to get its first hit. But — and, as a Pirates fan, I know this all too well — such is life in a world where Arrieta exists.
- It’s been rumored that the Steelers are “likely” to have Roethlisberger back after the bye. Let’s hope that’s true. Let’s also hope he plays better than he did in his first game back after injury last year. Or ever.
- The league found nothing worth penalizing or fining when Ndamukong Suh literally — and, clearly, intentionally — kicked Roethlisberger in the knee two weeks ago, even after the team sent them the video for further review. But they called Artie Burns’ suplex tackle “unnecessary roughness”? Oy vey. NFL, if you are wondering why viewership is down the last few seasons, there’s part of your reason, right there: a combination of incomprehensible rules and the appearance of bias. Let’s ignore for a second that players are allowed to spike the ball after a touchdown, but not spin it on end, or dunk it over the goal post. But when you allow a known thug to get away with an obviously intentional kick, while penalizing a guy for, quite literally, doing his job, you make the game unpalatable for the average fan.
- If injuries continue at their current rate, the NFL is going to be forced to further change its policies regarding players placed on the Reserve/Injured list. In the next two years, I predict changes to align the policy closer to that of baseball, where teams can choose to put a player on “disabled” lists of varying lengths, allowing players to be stashed for set periods of time while allowing a replacement to be added to the roster without having to cut a healthy player or sit the injured player for the remainder of the season. It’s unfair and unnecessary, and should be completely overhauled.