The Top Three Storylines that Might Affect the Steelers
- In this game, there is no lesser of two evils. Evil is evil. If I had my way, I wouldn’t even mention the Ravens/Patriots game, for two reasons: 1) the list of things I love more than both of these teams combined includes waterboarding, tooth decay, scrapple, tickling rabid pit bulls, dirty diapers and the abolition of turkey as a food; and 2) I don’t expect the Ravens to have a snowball’s chance in H-E-doublehockeysticks. Yes, the loss of Rob Gronkowski hurts the Patriots. But the Ravens are 2-3 on the road this year, with losses to the Giants, Jets and Cowboys. Their road victories this year were over the Browns and the Jaguars, by a combined seven points. That’s not a ringing endorsement of their ability to win away from M&T Bank Stadium.
- In other news, garbage smells bad. Something went under the radar this week in the AFC North for reasons that are about to become very obvious: the Browns have now clinched last place in the division. If the Browns were to win out, they would have four wins. If the Bengals lost out, they would have four wins. But thanks to being part of one of the league’s two ties this year, Cincy basically has an additional half a win, meaning Cleveland cannot pass the Bengals. It wasn’t likely anyway, but it does mean the Browns literally have nothing left to play for. That actually makes them more dangerous, because their ownership is just dumb enough to get creative now and maybe steal a few wins — and, of course, screw the team out of the top draft pick. Oh well, it’s not like they would use it well anyway.
- They call it the “wild” card for a reason. The AFC wildcard race could be a bit closer after this week. The Broncos are a better team than the Titans, but the game is in Tennessee, and the gap between the two teams is shrinking. The Dolphins are coming off a horrid loss, and will welcome the Cardinals to town. All signs point to the Dolphins winning, despite their week 13 collapse, but the 2016 Cardinals are nothing if not unpredictable. Chances are not much will materially change this week, but the picture should be a lot easier to read a week from now.
Best Game of the Week with No Hypocycloids
Oakland @ Kansas City
Forget game of the week. This could be the game of the year, because it could be what determines one of the two first-round byes in the AFC. The teams are bitter rivals, and are the top two teams in the AFC West. Both have been playing well, both have pulled miracles out of their collective rear ends in the last few weeks, and both are capable of beating anyone in the AFC right now. Finally — finally! — we get a truly meaningful Thursday night game.
Worst Game of the Week, a.k.a. Not Suitable TV for Anyone with a Weak Constitution
New York Jets @ San Francisico
Texans at Colts. Bengals at Browns. Vikings at Jaguars. There are more than enough terrible games this week, but none of them come anywhere close to this. The Jets have resorted to starting Bryce Petty, which apparently was news to Ryan Fitzpatrick, while the 49ers have resorted to keeping Colin Kaepernick as their starter — which was probably news to Colin Kaepernick.
Five Pointless Points
- NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha called the Steelers contenders and the Ravens pretenders as we round the three-quarters mark. Remember, you heard it here first, folks. You heard it at NFL.com second, because I’ve been saying it since week three.
- The “coaching hot seat” talk heats up about this time each year. I’d have to say the initial list should include at least the following: Rex Ryan (Bills), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Gus Bradley (Jaguars), Mike McCoy (Chargers), John Fox (Bears), Sean Payton (Saints), Chip Kelly (49ers) and Jeff Fisher (Rams), despite his extension just being announced this week. That list should not include rookie coach Todd Bowles (Jets). It also shouldn’t include Cleveland’s Hue Jackson, but it probably will, because That’s So Cleveland.
- Someone in Los Angeles needs to be fired in the Rams’ communications department. First, we find out that Jeff Fisher’s contract was extended before the season, but not announced until Week 13. Then we find out not only that general manager Les Sneed was also given an extension, but also that Fisher wasn’t even aware it happened. Maybe that’s why Fisher still even has a job with the organization: no one has bothered to tell the team ownership that Fisher is a terrible coach.
- I’m no fan of Tom Brady, but winning 201 games in the NFL is a big deal, even if he may have cheated to do it. Sixteen seasons is a long time in this sport. However, one has to wonder if breaking Peyton Manning’s record would have been more satisfying if the opposing team was actually a professional football team, instead of whatever that group is that they keep touting in Los Angeles.
- Jagoff Extraordinaire Vontaze Burfict also should be congratulated on his two-interception performance. The reason I feel he needs to be congratulated is that I needed to find yet another way to get his name in the weekly Yinzer’s guide so I could continue to fulfill my promise to call him a jagoff for 17 straight weeks. Surprisingly, it;s a lot harder than it may seem.