It’s the fourth quarter of the schedule and I have the Steelers at 11-1. Overly optimistic?
I could easily see them dropping 3 at this point and being 9-3, but it’s the preseason, the time of optimism and high expectations, so what the heck!
To review, this would give the Steelers a commanding lead in the AFC North, where at this point I have the Browns at 4-8 (losing to the Chiefs, Falcons, and Texans and beating the Bengals), the Ravens at 4-8 (beating the Raiders and Bengals and losing to the Steelers and Falcons) and finally the Bengals at 3-9 after suffering a winless third quarter (losing to the Saints, Ravens, Browns and Broncos). That would give the Steelers a 7-game lead on the rest of the division.
Let’s see what the fourth quarter has in store.
Fourth Quarter – @Raiders, Patriots, @Saints, Bengals
One primetime game unless the Patriots game gets flexed into Sunday night, and two tough road games. The Raiders game requires the Steelers to do that whole cross-country thing, and that normally doesn’t turn out well for east coast teams (or west coast teams coming the other way). That and a trip to New Orleans to face a really good Saints team makes this another tough stretch of games.
Week 14 – Oakland
The last time the Steelers won a game in Oakland it was 1995. They haven’t had that many chances, only playing in Oakland 4 times over that span of years. So, let’s just get this out of the way – history isn’t on their side. The situation isn’t on their side (having to travel cross country).
The only thing on their side is that Jon Gruden seems intent on mucking up the Raiders as much as is humanly possible. Hey, maybe we are all wrong, and Chucky is a genius. Maybe spending 10 years in the broadcast booth hasn’t distanced him from today’s game and he knows exactly what he’s doing.
The Raiders have talent on their squad. Khalil Mack (if he doesn’t get traded, and if he doesn’t hold out) is as dynamic a playmaker on defense as you’ll find. This could be a good team. I just don’t see it working out that way.
There is so much going against the Steelers and a looming Patriots game makes this a potential (dare I say it?) trap.
Despite it all, I think the Steelers come away with a win. An ugly one? Probably? But it still counts.
Steelers 21 – Raiders 19
Week 15 – New England
We all know the mantra that we keep chanting since last year’s Patriots game:
Jesse caught it!
Oh, Al Riveron how cruel your stupidity looks, even at a distance.
The thing is, I think despite the fact that the catch was overturned and the Steelers wound up losing a game they really had won, I think it proved to them that they can beat the Patriots.
And they will this time.
I don’t know what kind of team the Patriots are going to cobble together this year, but a lot of talented players have moved on. No matter how good a coach the Grand Wizard Bill is, at some point, it’s going to catch up to them. While I expect this to be a close game, I do expect the Steelers to rebound from the disappointing loss in Oakland and put the ghost of the Patriots to rest once and for all.
Steelers 28 – Patriots 24
Week 16 – New Orleans
This is another tough game. New Orleans may end up being one of the top teams in the NFC and don’t be at all surprised if people are touting this game as a preview to the Super Bowl. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. The Saints are going to be good. An improving defense that was leaps and bounds better than I thought they would be last year, and Drew Brees on offense.
If the Steelers are sitting at 12-2 at this point, it’s possible that this is a meaningless game, and it’s also possible that it’s a game they have to have to keep the hopes of being the number one AFC seed alive.
The Steelers are 5-5 against the Saints in their last 10 games and 2-3 at New Orleans in that stretch. However, they are 1-2 against the Saints in the Drew Brees era and Brees has put up 21, 20 and 22 points in those 3 games.
This is going to be a tough one, and considering it’s down south, and after what is likely to be an emotional victory over the Pats, it may be too much to ask for the Steelers to come away with the win.
Saints 30 – Steelers 21
Week 17 – Cincinnati
There is a good chance, even if the Steelers are 13-2 at this point they still may need this win to secure a top seed. The Patriots may lose 4 games, and Jacksonville may lose 4 games, but both teams may not. It’s my hope that they do and this is a game where Landry Jones, the GOAT of backups once again gets to start a game and regardless of if he wins or loses it won’t really impact the final standings.
The flip side of that is wondering who, if anyone is playing for the Bengals in what I expect to be another dismal season for them.
I think the Steelers will win this game regardless of if Landry, Ben or even Mason Rudolph starts. The Bengals look like a train wreck in the making to me and that train should have derailed well before this game.
Steelers 35 – Bengals 10
14-2 should be good enough to secure the top seed in the AFC for the Steelers. That means home games and nothing else the rest of the way, and that all important and elusive bye week.
There is not a lot of room for error here, and the Steelers could easily find themselves at 11-5 if the ball bounces the wrong way a couple of times. They will win the North and they will get a chance to make a run for Lombardi number seven.
Will they make it? Well, we’ll find out next time when I look at the playoffs in the Overtime edition!