Who's sitting prettier these days than the 6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers?
Maybe the 7-1 Eagles, but they play in the NFC and won't be a problem for Pittsburgh unless the two teams meet in Super Bowl LII in a little less than three months (I'm all for that, btw).
That brings me back to the nice perch the Steelers find themselves on, as they prepare for the second half of their schedule that begins this coming Sunday afternoon against a Colts team that will be without Andrew Luck, who was placed on Injured Reserve and will miss the rest of the regular season.
Speaking of starting quarterbacks of fairly-high (or the highest) regard the Steelers have and will miss, little did anyone know, when Sam Bradford was declared out for the Week-2 match-up at Heinz Field way back on September 17th, it would be the start of a trend of such occurrences over the course of the regular season, with the bulk of the absences taking place during the last two months of the schedule.
In addition to missing out on Luck, Pittsburgh's defense will not have to prepare for Aaron Rodgers or rookie phenom Deshaun Watson down the stretch.
And how about that schedule which, after this Sunday's affair in Indianapolis, will see the Steelers play five of their last seven games at the friendly confines of Heinz Field?
By contrast, the mighty Patriots, winners of two of the last three Super Bowls, and perhaps the marquee franchise in all of professional sports, will have to play five of their final eight games—including five of the next six—away from Gillette Stadium.
No matter who you are, it's always easier to play at home and just a little harder to play on the road. So while both teams currently have identical 6-2 marks, there's a decent chance the Steelers may have a better record when New England travels to Heinz Field on December 17 for a game that will undoubtedly have huge No. 1 seed implications.
It's obviously not out of the question that the Patriots could come to Pittsburgh and leave with a win (even a lopsided win), but if there was ever a year when the Bill Belichick mystique seems a bit off, it's 2017.
Yes, New England is No. 1 in offense, but it's also dead-last in defense.
And even if the Patriots wind up with the No. 1 seed, Pittsburgh is still in prime position to get the No. 2 seed, which isn't a bad consolation prize, considering it could mean the now-struggling Chiefs traveling to Gillette Stadium for the divisional round.
In this little trio of current AFC powerhouses, the Patriots don't match up well with the Chiefs, the Chiefs don't match up well with the Steelers, and the Steelers don't match up well with the Patriots.
So, any scenario that pits Kansas City against New England is a scenario that could ultimately benefit the Steelers.
And what about the rest of the AFC North?
I've often complained about Pittsburgh having to battle its way out of its own division, before it can even sniff the post-season, while the Patriots have benefited from a very weak AFC East for the majority of their reign over the NFL.
But the Bills are a pretty competitive team this year—one that has given New England fits recently—and they’ll face the Patriots twice down the stretch.
And speaking of AFC East opponents that have given New England the occasional fit, how about those Jets, a team that gave the Patriots everything it had in a 24-17 home loss on October 15, a contest that was decided by what might have been one of the most bizarre touchdown reversals in league history.
Over in the AFC West, the once-unbeaten Chiefs are now 6-3 and might face a stiff challenge from a Raiders team that has already beaten them and might get hot now that quarterback Derek Carr appears to be healthy.
Even the up-and-coming Jaguars, a team that came into Heinz Field and put a three-touchdown whippin' on the Steelers in Week 5—and certainly matches up better with them than Kansas City—will have to fight those equally upstart Titans just to make it out of the AFC South.
As for the Steelers, they sit at 3-0 in the AFC North and have a 3-game lead in the loss column. Furthermore, the rest of the teams in the division have losing records—yes, even those always tough-to-beat Ravens.
In other words, if the Steelers don't run away with the division crown, shame on them for six weeks.
And then there’s the injury factor.
While the Patriots are dealing with season-ending injuries to both Julian Edelman and Dont'a Hightower, and the Chiefs are trying to get by without Eric Berry, Pittsburgh hasn't suffered any catastrophic injuries (I just knocked loudly on my wooden desk).
But that's okay, because the Steelers have had their share of significant injuries in recent years, injuries that certainly have occurred at the wrong times and left them crippled (no pun intended) come the postseason.
There's a reason why people often say the healthiest teams (well, the healthiest contenders, anyway) are the ones that go on to win it all—and that's because it's usually true.
It's also often true that the teams that win championships do so because they benefit from missing a quality opponent along the way.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: if the Steelers make it to and win the Super Bowl this year, and they do so while avoiding New England, nobody is going to care at the parade a few days later.
People talk about the Steelers’ historically tough 2008 regular season schedule that was part of their march to Super Bowl XLIII, but they often fail to mention that they got to face an 8-8 team in the divisional round and the 9-7 Cardinals in the Super Bowl.
Why do people fail to mention that? Because they probably don't even remember it.
Nothing wrong with getting a lot of breaks along the way to winning a championship.
Not saying the Steelers are on their way to a title, but their path to one appears as clear as it's been in a long time.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lot more wood to knock on before the second half of the season begins.