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A Yinzer’s Guide to Week Nine in the NFL

The Steelers are back after a week-eight bye, and that’s big news, because they will probably get Ben Roethlisberger and Cameron Heyward back, among others. Is there anything else important going on in the NFL this week? For Yinzers, not really. But that’s not our fault.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Top Three Storylines that Might Affect the Steelers

  1. Count T-Sizzle among those who aren’t going to be fooled, Ben. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been practicing this week, less than three weeks after knee surgery, and rumor has it he’s going to play Sunday against Baltimore. While the party line among the coaches and players is that they are taking his status day by day, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs — himself, no stranger to injury — isn’t falling for it. Said Suggs, “I seen this movie before. We all know who's playing. Tell Ben he's not fooling anyone.” Now, even though there is no love lost between Suggs and any Steelers player or fan, there is universal respect there, too — unlike with that jagoff in Cincinnati, Vontaze Burfict.
  2. This is your weekly It’s-Too-Soon-To-Think-Playoffs-But-I-Will-Anyway public service announcement. If the Steelers were 6-1 right now, I don’t think I’d be saying this — mostly because reversing the last two games would mean we’d have, for all intents and purposes, a two-game lead on the Patriots and one-game leads on Denver and Oakland for the number-one seed. Alas, the Steelers are 4-3 and will be battling for control of the AFC North this weekend against the Ravens, in Baltimore. That game alone has massive playoff implications — it would give the Ravens a tie-breaker lead should they win, but it would give the Steelers an enormous two-game lead plus the early tie breaker if Pittsburgh pulls it off. To make matters worse, the Broncos and Raiders will face off Sunday night, with the winner being all alone atop the AFC West and the loser having a slim lead in the wild card race. Oy vey.
  3. You can’t go home again. The Ravens are typically an excellent team at home in M&T Bank Stadium. However, since the beginning of the 2015 season, they are just 4-7 alongside the Inner Harbor. It didn’t help the Steelers last year, of course, as two of the Ravens’ five wins were against Pittsburgh thanks to an inexplicable — and inexcusable — season sweep. Hopefully, it’s a little more of a factor this year.

Best Game of the Week with No Hypocycloids

Denver @ Oakland

And it’s not even a question. The only thing in the same atmosphere is Eagles/Giants. Oakland is one of those teams you just know is on the verge of greatness, and they will have to go through the great defense of their long-time rival if they want to achieve said greatness. Getchya popcorn ready.

Worst Game of the Week, a.k.a. Welcome Back, Cleveland

Dallas @ Cleveland

I’d so badly love to put the Jets/Dolphins game here, because they are both still pretty bad teams, despite what Miami did to the Steelers. But the game should at least be competitive. Dallas at Cleveland, though, should be over sometime between the coin toss and the third change of possession. It’s quite possible the Cowboys are the best team in the NFL right now. They showed that a week ago, when they beat a rapidly rising Philly team despite half the Dallas roster having a very “off” night. At the very least, they are the number-two team behind New England. Which, of course, isn’t giving me the warm fuzzies about week 10 that it did during training camp.

Five Pointless Points

  1. The AFC North is bad this year. For the Steelers, it’s possible the last two games are not as indicative of the direction of their season as were the five before that. But for the rest of the division? The Bengals have won three of eight so far, and two of the four worst streaks in football are in the North, with Baltimore losing their last four and Cleveland losing...well...all of their games.
  2. But not as bad as the AFC South! In the AFC Civil War of Mediocrity, the Steelers are at least the team that is not like the others: they actually have a positive points differential. The rest of the North is in the red, and all four teams in the South have given up more points than they’ve scored. So, despite an uncharacteristically bad season for the AFC North, they still haven’t stolen the Crown of Disturbingly Awful Awfulness from the South yet.
  3. The NFL is considering adding an eighth official. Because that’s clearly the problem. There just aren’t enough septuagenarians in vertical stripes trying to interpret a rulebook that rivals the U.S. tax code in complexity. Adding one more confused retiree should absolutely fix all the officiating woes.
  4. Cam Newton should never be allowed to set foot inside a hat store again. Ever. That is all.
  5. Congrats to the Chicago Cubs on winning the World Series. Of course, despite my sincerity, I say that through gritted teeth, as I’ve already spoken my disdain for a world where the laws of physics allow Jake Arrieta to exist. I can take solace in the fact that history says the Cubs only win once every 108 years, and I expect to have long since passed my tenure as fertilizer to a 4 by 8 by 6 chunk of soil by the time 2124 rolls around.