The Top Three Storylines that Might Affect the Steelers
- So long, and thanks for all the wins. Miami closes out their run through the AFC North this weekend when they go on the road to take on the Ravens, who are tied atop the division with the Steelers and currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Dolphins beat the Steelers in week six, and haven’t lost since. They do live and die by the run, which is what Baltimore is best built to stop. However, I have a gut feeling that Baltimore is going to struggle with Jay Ajayi, and that the Dolphins will win. That would give the Dolphins a 3-1 record against the division this year, second only to the Cowboys, who went undefeated, and — oddly enough — the Ravens, who have four wins in the division and just two against the rest of the league.
- Livin’ on the edge. Six losses isn’t likely to get you a wild-card berth in the AFC this season. In the AFC North and the AFC South, a team with more losses than that may actually win their division, but as for the wildcards, six isn’t likely to cut it. That means the Bills stand the biggest chance of being virtually eliminated from contention this week when they take on the Raiders. Everything is against them: 1) they are flying cross-country; 2) they are playing one of the hottest teams in the league right now, a team led by quarterback Derek Carr, who is a legitimate candidate for league MVP; 3) the Bills could probably cut their entire defense, and it would be an immediate improvement; and 4) Buffalo has the Ryan brothers, who ruin everything they touch.
- Traffic is getting heavy in the AFC. An Indianapolis road win over the Jets (possible) combined with a Houston road loss to the Packers (likely) means there could be a massive logjam atop the AFC South, with three teams sitting at 6-6. In fact, I’d have to put Tennessee in the driver’s seat at that point, because they have the best-performing quarterback at the moment. That’s actually a dangerous thing, because they are one of the most improved teams in the league since the beginning of the season, along with Miami and the Giants. Should the Steelers end up winning the AFC North, there’s a strong chance they will go in neck and neck with the winner of the AFC South, and the loser would be in line to play, most likely, the Patriots, should they win the Wildcard Round.
Best Game of the Week with No Hypocycloids
Kansas City @ Atlanta
Technically, Dallas @ Minnesota features the highest combined winning percentage this week, but the gap from 10-1 to 6-5 is much steeper than it is from 8-3 to 7-4. From a competitiveness standpoint, this is as good of a game as we might get all year and, being in Atlanta, I’m hard pressed to not give the edge to Atlanta — but just barely.
Worst Game of the Week, a.k.a. Biz Markie levels of bad
San Francisco @ Chicago
The Cleveland Browns are bad, but at least they do something fun now and then. The 49ers and Bears, on the other hand, are just plain unwatchable. Worst game of the week? Heck, this could be the worst game of the season. And it’s got to be on the verge of being nominated for worst game of the decade. When you watch a football game, and it makes you long to see Jay Cutler versus Blaine Gabbert, it’’s a pretty sure sign that what you are watching isn’t football. If I have to sit through this, I may declare myself an enemy combatant so I can be tortured — just to take away the pain.
Yes, worse than this.
Five Pointless Points
- Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday that he is “not concerned” for his job, despite the team’s 4-7 record. To some degree, that makes sense; Fisher’s career has been inexplicably long, despite a record of 178-169-1, good for just a .513 winning percentage. For reasons I’ll never understand, he continues to get the benefit of the doubt, despite having only ever coached in 11 post-season games, and only winning five. Then again, when you make your career coaching the Titans and the Rams, mediocrity may be an improvement.
- So, how are the two ties we’ve had through the first 12 weeks of the 2016 season affecting the playoff picture? Well...not really all that much. The 7-3-1 Seahawks currently lead their division by a good amount over the 4-6-1 Cardinals, who have little chance of making the playoffs this year. The biggest impact Seattle’s tie is likely to have is on playoff seeding, but it’s not likely to help them get the top seed in the NFC. Dallas would have to finish the season 3-2 at best, while Seattle must win out, for it to even be a possibility. Dallas has lost just one of their first 11 games, and don’t expect them to take it easy in the final weeks. The Cowboyshas struggled so much for so long that they aren’t likely to lift off the throttle much. The Redskins may actually be helped by their tie, as it is giving them a half-game lead for the second wildcard berth over two teams, and a 1.5-game lead over three more. Cincinnati, home of Jagoff Numero Uno Vontaze Burfict, is 3-7-1 and could be mathematically eliminated next week. Two losses, or one loss and a Denver win, will take them entirely out of contention.
- It would be awesome if wires on my pre-lit Christmas trees would go more than two years without malfunctioning. It really, really would.
- If he declares for the draft in 2017, I’m very intrigued by Ohio State inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan. The junior just has the look of a top-notch linebacker at the pro level, and has a frame that could support some more mass. In fact, I could see him easily converting to a pass-rushing outside linebacker, and could be a solid replacement if the team lets Jarvis Jones walk, which is looking more and more likely.
- In years past, I’ve spent hours and hours poring over my fantasy football teams. This year, I wasn’t even going to play, and then some of the BTSC writers put together a league. I spend about 3 minutes on my roster each week, and during the live draft I had several players auto-drafted for me because I forgot to make my pick. The result? I’ve been in the lead in the league most of the season. Lesson learned: I’m an idiot when it comes to fantasy football, and I’ve had my best season when I’ve had the least input in the team. Such is life in the fantasy sports world.