Hope everybody had a swell weekend. Santa saw fit to leave me my three-year-old son’s cold, so I enjoyed that all day Sunday while watching football. It could be worse, I guess. I could be the Chargers.
So as expected, the season will come down to Week 17 for a lot of teams, the Steelers included. They’ll need to beat the Browns to lock up the No. 2 seed and the bye week that goes with it. If you had asked me before yesterday’s games if I’d rather have Pittsburgh face Cleveland or Cincy in the regular-season finale, I would have proclaimed, without hesitation, the Bengals.
Their 10-game losing streak earlier this season coupled with the way they played against the Steelers a few weeks ago was enough for me to conclude that they had long given up. Turns out, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco were the problems. Once Cincy got rid of those guys, Carson Palmer started playing like it was 2005. And for reasons that still remain a mystery, Palmer and Co. always play well against the Ravens.
The Steelers will have to travel to Cleveland to face a Browns team that looked like it had a rookie quarterback against the Ravens. Colt McCoy threw three picks — two to Ed Reed — and the only touchdown came on a Massaquoi-to-Robiskie trick play. Peyton Hillis was held to fewer than 40 yards (he was bruised and battered going into the game and it only got worse from there), and the defense didn’t really have an answer for Ray Rice. Also worth noting: the Ravens were pressuring McCoy most of the day with just four rushers. It would be nice if the Steelers could find a way to generate similar pressure.
As for the rest of the AFC playoff picture, it looks like this.
Obviously, things change if the Ravens win and the Steelers lose in Week 17 (Pittsburgh drops to the sixth seed if the Jets also win at home against the Bills; they’ll have the fifth seed if the Jets lose, too).
Assuming Pittsburgh wins, the Ravens have the No. 5 seed wrapped up. Then it’s a matter of what becomes of the Colts and the Chiefs. If the Chiefs win, they’re a No. 3 and face the Jets. If they lose — and the Colts beat the Titans — Kansas City then becomes a No. 4 seed and hosts the Ravens.
I watched the Chiefs dismantle the Titans yesterday and now I’m not sure if I’d rather the Ravens face them or the Colts. Coventional wisdom says Indy and Peyton Manning. But Matt Cassel looked sharp, and they have their very own version of Ray Rice in Jamaal Charles. (I know, he’s smaller and not quite the power runner, but he had little trouble treading the Steelers in 2009). And save Peyton, Indy is banged up beyond recognition.
Just something to think about as you recover from last weekend and prepare for the next one.
Oh, and here are some links for your perusal:
– Colt McCoy takes responsibility for Browns’ loss. [Ohio.com]
– Ravens weren’t impressive, but a win’s a win. [Baltimore Sun]
– After Cincy’s victory Sunday, there is already talk of “passing the torch” from the outspoken old-timers to the young. [Cincinnati Enquirer]
– Po-Sweezy gets his first feature. (And while he didn’t mention it, I still contend his miss from 41 yards to end the first half against the Panthers was on Jason Kapinos. Also, sorta related: Skippy honked his first attempt with the 49ers yesterday, although he came back and hit one from beyond 40 yards.) [Tribune-Review]
– Random YouTubez: The final nine-plus minutes of Chuck Noll’s last game with the Steelers, a 17-10 victory over the Browns on Dec. 22, 1991.