Three Storylines that Might Affect the Steelers
- The New Orleans Saints aren’t what they once were, but they can still be a very formidible opponent. They have a chance to make a mark on the AFC playoff picture, as a win over the Broncos would thrust teams like Pittsburgh, San Diego, Tennessee, Indianapolis and Miami right back into the thick of the Wild-Card conversation. I’m hopeful that Pittsburgh still ends up winning the AFC North, but then that woul still mean Baltimore is right there instead. The majority of the AFC is very muddled right now, so this game could have an impact later in the season.
- Another interconference match could have an impact on the AFC playoff picture, as Carolina hosts the Chiefs, and from Pittsburgh’s perspective, this could be even bigger than the Denver/New Orleans matchup, as the Steelers have the head-to-head tie breaker over Kansas City. KC has a two-game lead on Pittsburgh for the firt Wild-Card seed right now, but a loss this week would put them just one game ahead and not in control because of the tie breaker.
- The Steelers opened as a surprising early favorite over the Cowboys, despite the game being in Pittsburgh, thanks to Dallas’ resurgence this season. Longtime Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was a full participant in practice this week after missing the first nine weeks of the season due to a broken back, and there are natural questions as to whether he would regain his starting job by default — perhaps as early as this week. While neither his return to active status, nor to the starting lineup, is likely, one thing I’ve learned in my life is to never make an assumption about the mind of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Best Game of the Week with no Hypocycloids
Atlanta @ Philadelphia
The Eagles have been a streaky team this year. They won three, then have had two two-game losing streaks wrapped around a single win against the Vikings. What do all of their losses have in common? They were all road games. With one lone exception — a win over the Bears in Chicago in week two — Philly has won when at home and lost on the road.
This week, they are at home against the Falcons, owners of a 6-3 record — including a 4-1 record away from home. We have a team that hasn’t lost at home this year versus a team that has won four of five on the road. We have Philly’s mostly steady offense and stout defense against Atlanta’s red-hot offense and shaky defense. All the makings of a barn-burner.
Worst Game of the Week, a.k.a. From Now On We Default to Cleveland Here
Cleveland @ Baltimore
Cleveland is oh-fer-2016. Baltimore just played a horrendously bad home game against a team whose quarterback was 20 days removed from knee surgery, and only won because of one missed tackle and one matador-style block. All of that, despite the fact that Pittsburgh didn’t break 100 yards of offense until well into the fourth quarter. Yes, I still think Baltimore is that bad. This is a rematch from earlier this season, and I don’t really think either team has moved the needle very much since that week-two matchup that Baltimore won by five. It’s a fitting game for the Thursday night slot.
Five Pointless Points
- How are we supposed to survive until 4:25? The Steelers play their rare 4:25 p.m. home game against the Cowboys on Sunday, while the rest of the scintilating AFC North is bookending the week, with Baltimore and Cleveland playing Thursday and Cincinnati taking on the Giants on Monday night. I have no evidence to back this up, but it may very well be the first time that all four teams played, and none of them were in the 1:00 p.m. timeslot.
- It truly is a high priority. The NFLPA is current;y conducting extensive studies into the viability of medicinal marijuana (cannaboids) to help players treat pain. As someone who spent half a decade using opioid pain killers to help cope with injury, I can attest to the damage that prolonged use of opioids — synthesized versions of opiates, which are derived from the poppy plant — can do to a person. Specifically, to the brain. I still have not regained most of the memories of my oldest child’s first two years of life. So, if they can prove the pain-killing abilities are sufficient without doing the damage of opioids, then I am all for it.
- The Kid’s still got it. The Post-Gazette’s Joe Starkey — a phrase I may never get used to saying — wrote an excellent piece on the reemergence of Penguins captain and future NHL Hall-of-Famer Sidney Crosby, who has eight goals in his first seven games this year after missing the beginning of the season with a concussion. Very much worth the read if you are a hockey fan.
- And now for something entirely serious. Peter King, for whom I have a great deal of respect as a journalist (slightly less so as a football analyst, but not by that much), recently wrote that full-time officials wouldn’t improve the officiating. His biggest point is that a lot of the current officials would leave if forced to choose between officiating and their day jobs. He also questions what they would do with the rest of their week to be better officials, arguing that re-watching game film wouldn’t have a measurable effect on their abilities. I have to disagree with King here. For one thing, simply getting rid of the distraction of another job would change their mental state from week to week. And watching film over and over -- and training by using old games — wouls absolutely make them better. Finally, if they are in the NFL offices during the week, they would be available to be an integral part of reworking the existing rules to make them more understandable and to remove subjectivity.
- I love tradition. Jagoffs appearing in this article: Vontaze Burfict.