Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’

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Last weekend saw three of four road teams come out and win, with the only home team to hold serve being the improbable Seattle Seahawks.  What does that mean for this weekend, if anything?  Well, home field advantage clearly isn’t what it used to be, and the lower seeded division winners in both conferences are somewhat inferior to the higher seeded wild cards.  This weekend, however, the home teams are the top two teams in each conference and that makes winning at home a more likely thing, right?

The first game of the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is going to be a battle as the Pittsburgh Steelers host divisional blood rival, the Baltimore Ravens.  Pittsburgh enters the playoffs after a bye week coming off of two easy wins over Carolina and Cleveland by a combined score of 68-12.  Baltimore comes in fresh off of a total shellacking of the Chiefs in Kansas City last week, 30-7.  The Ravens have won five in a row and seven out of eight.  Their only loss?  To these Steelers back in Week 13.

Which of these two dominant teams will be the first to earn a spot in the Conference Championships next week? (more…)

See this article with photos on Bleacher Report

With five games left in the regular season, the playoff lineup is taking shape of a sorts. The conference boasts four really good teams that each could make it to the Superbowl, and about eight others fighting for the last two playoff spots. Well, seven, really, when you consider unlucky Miami who, at 6-5, is in the same division with the 9-2 Jets and Pats, and effectively three games behind the 8-3 Steelers with their head-to-head loss for the final wild card spot. They may have the same record as someone from the South or West Divisions that makes the playoffs, but they themselves have almost zero shot. Ah, the unfairness of the four division system.

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Week three in the NFL is in the books and there was more than a little upheaval in the rankings.  We have a new number one and only two teams are in the same spot as last week.  Kansas City, New England, Tennessee and the Jets were the big winners this week, all moving up two places, and Miami dropped the most, losing four spots.  Here are the complete rankings for the AFC this week.

16.  Jacksonville Jaguars (last week: 14, down two spots, season high 11, season low 16)-  Getting crushed on all sides of the ball two weeks in a row will get you to unseat Buffalo as the worst team in the conference.  How these guys even won the first game is beyond me.

15.  Buffalo Bills (last week: 16, up one spot, season high 15, season low 16)-  Trent Edwards not only lost his starting role, but his entire job as Buffalo cut him this week in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick.  So far, so good as the Bills put up 30 on New England.  They still lost, though.

14.  Cleveland Browns (last week: 15, up one spot, season high 14, season low 16)-  The Browns were surprisingly competitive against Baltimore, but they still couldn’t quite get the job done.  Mistakes and a poorly coached offensive unit cost them another close game.

13.  Oakland Raiders (last week: 13, even, season high 13, season low 13)-  The Raiders snatched defeat from victory in handing a win to Arizona last week.  One thing the bottom teams in the AFC have in common is bad coaching.  For the Raiders, that’s a problem that never seems to go away.

12.  Denver Broncos (last week: 12, even, season high 12, season low 14)-  In the AFC, there seems to be a line between 11 and 12.  The top 11 all have legit playoff hopes.  The bottom five, starting with Denver, have no chance.  The Broncos were doubled up at home by Indianapolis last week.  With all the talk about quarterbacks in Denver this year, maybe someone should have worried about defense, or receivers, or a running game.  Just a thought.

11.  San Diego Chargers (last week: 10, down one spot, season high 10, season low 11)-  The Chargers totally handed the game to Leon Washington and Seattle last week.  This is getting to be a tired refrain, San Diego starts slow, wins 10 in a row to close out, then loses in the playoffs.  They may be the most talented team in either western division, but they’re already two games behind KC with a head to head loss.

10.  Cincinnati Bengals (last week: 9, down one spot, season high 9, season low 10)- So what do you get when you win ugly on the road against Carolina, who might be the worst team in football?  You drop in the rankings.  Has anyone seen former elite QB Carson Palmer lately, because that guy standing under center in Cincinnati certainly isn’t him?   Hard to believe his skills have fallen off this much.  If he doesn’t get it together, this will be a wasted year for the Bengals.

9.  Kansas City Chiefs (last week: 11, up two spots, season high 9, season low 12)-  Okay, I’m getting closer to believing in Kansas City, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s not forget Denver’s 6-0 start last year.  They looked for real, too, but are 3-10 since.  Matt Cassell played a good game for a change, and the Chiefs blew out San Fran at Arrowhead.  If the 49ers didn’t have all the earmarks of a team in total collapse, it would be more impressive.

8.  Baltimore Ravens (last week: 6, down two spots, season high 3, season low 8)-  This team has way too much talent to be struggling at home to the likes of Cleveland.  All that Superbowl talk looks like smoke right now as these guys barely look playoff caliber.  The one exception in Anquan Boldin, who has looked other-worldly so far.  Do you think Arizona misses him?

7.  Miami Dolphins (last week: 3, down four spots, season high 3, season low 7)-  Welcome to Miami, Brandon Marshall. The receiver had a huge game against the Jets, but it wasn’t enough.  The defense totally fell apart against New York, and that is troubling going forward.  And where is the running game?  If Miami needs Chad Henne to throw for 400 yards and put up 30 points each week, it could be a long season.

6.  Tennessee Titans (last week: 8, up two spots, season high 4, season low 8)-  It looks like the Pittsburgh debacle was the aberration so far this season.  Vince Young played a solid, albeit limited game and didn’t get benched as Tennessee walked into the Meadowlands and whipped the Giants.  Chris Johnson is worth every penny. 

5.  New York Jets (last week: 7, up two spots, season high 5, season low 8)-  Sanchez and the boys looked very good for the second week in a row against key division rivals.  You can’t write a better bounce back after that horrid opening game.  Still, the pass defense is concerning.  Another receiver put up a big game against them with Brandon Marshall’s 10 catches for 166 yards making that three weeks in a row.  The Jets have to fix that fast, because if the AFC is anything, it’s filled with good quarterbacks.

4.  Indianapolis Colts (last week: 5, up one spot, season high 4, season low 7)-  The defense gave up some yards but few points in a relatively easy win in Denver.  Should we just rename the MVP the Peyton Manning Award at this point?  The loss to Houston looks a lot less earth shattering after two impressive wins.

3.  Houston Texans (last week: 1, down two spots, season high 1, season low 3)-  Bad loss at home, but to be fair, it wasn’t exactly a road game for Dallas in Texas, and the Cowboys were desperate.  They gave up another big day to another quarterback, still don’t have an interception, Matt Schaub looked average again, and Andre Johnson’s hurt.  On the plus side, Arian Foster ran for over 100 yards and 6 yards per carry.  Maybe they should take a lesson from week one and just pound the ball.

2.  New England Patriots (last week: 4, up two spots, season high 2, season low 4)-  Brady and the Pats put up 38 against Buffalo coming off that bad Jets loss.  These guys can score.  The defense is troubling, however.  Buffalo was in it all game long and put up 30 themselves.  To put that in perspective, the Bills scored 17 in the first two games combined.  The Pats have allowed 24, 28 and 30 points this season.  That trend is moving the wrong way.

1.  Pittsburgh Steelers (last week: 2, up one spot, season high 1, season low 5)-  With the Houston loss and their big win over Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh takes over the top spot.  Their defense is just killing people right now.  If they can stay healthy on that side of the ball, they might stay a while on top.  Do you think Big Ben’s worried about his long-term job security if the Steelers can trot out any old retread at QB and still win games?

NFC Rankings

Five Players to Watch

Week two of the NFL season brought a few surprises and some notable rearrangements to the rankings.  Obviously, because of the small sample size, upheaval will be common over the first few weeks.  This week in the AFC, Pittsburgh and Miami climbed the most, each moving up three places, and Tennessee was the big loser, dropping four slots.  Here’s the complete AFC rankings after week two.

16.  Buffalo Bills (last week: 15, fell one spot, season high 15, season low 16)-  The Bills were totally thrashed on the road by Green Bay.  Unlike week one, where they were at least competitive, last week’s game was a blow out from the get go.  That’s good enough for last place.

15.  Cleveland Browns (last week: 16, up one spot, season high 15, season low 16)-  Despite losing at home, the Browns still moved up in the list.  They’ve lost two games to currently undefeated teams by a total of five points.  Unlike Buffalo, they haven’t been run off the field.

14.  Jacksonville Jaguars (last week: 11, fell three spots, season high 11, season low 14)-  After getting handily thrashed in San Diego last week, Jacksonville takes a plunge down the rankings.  They looked pretty good beating Denver in week one, but the Chargers exposed them as a mediocre team. 

13.  Oakland Raiders (last week: 13, even, season high 13, season low 13)-  So Jason Campbell has already lost his starting job to Bruce Gradkowski, and Darren McFadden is showing signs of being a top flight back.  The Raiders won a close game over the lowly Rams last week, but more results are needed before they can move up.

12.  Denver Broncos (last week: 14, up two spots, season high 12, season low 14)-  The Broncos brought Seattle back to Earth last week with a big home win, which earns them a trip up the list.  Kyle Orton is playing very well, keeping the Tim Tebow supporters at bay for the moment.  Denver may not be a good team, but for now, they’ve earned this spot in the rankings.

11.  Kansas City Chiefs (last week: 12, up one spot, season high 11, season low 12)-  If Matt Cassell wasn’t such a lousy quarterback, the surprisingly undefeated Chiefs would be higher on this list.  The running game is fantastic and the defense is playing well.  Still, without a better passing game, these guys are going nowhere fast.

10.  San Diego Chargers (last week: 10, even, season high 10, season low 10)-  They looked great against Jacksonville, but when all is said and done, that might not mean much.  The joke that is the Vincent Jackson negotiations is just making them look vindictive, which will ultimately affect how other players perform.  They are clearly the best team in either western division, but 9-7 may take that honor, or possibly worse.

9.  Cincinnati Bengals (last week: 9, even, season high 9, season low 9)-  The Bengals won a close one over the Ravens, who are once again having offensive troubles.  They may yet move much higher up this list, but I’m not convinced that they can consistently beat the best teams.  Carson Palmer hasn’t been the same QB since the knee injury of a few years ago, the receivers are old and the running backs are still retreads.

8.  Tennessee Titans (last week: 4, fell four spots, season high 4, season low 8)-  The Titans looked so good after week one and so bad after getting beat up by Pittsburgh last week.  Vince Young getting benched by Jeff Fisher may not bode well for the rest of the season.  Even so, the Steelers defense is playing out of their minds, so we’ll see how Tennessee does this week.

7.  New York Jets (last week: 8, up one spot, season high 7, season low 8)-  Impressive win over New England last week makes up a bit for the putrid offensive performance the previous week against Baltimore.  Mark Sanchez looked like a real quarterback again, and the Jets got back in the East race.  A win over Miami this week would have them in first with wins over their top two divisional foes.  Can they pull it off on the road?  Maybe.

6.  Baltimore Ravens (last week: 3, fell three spots, season high 3, season low 6)-  Losing a division game to Cincinnati hurts, but not as much as the continued poor play of Joe Flacco.  This was supposed to be the year that the offense caught up with the defense in Baltimore.  Hasn’t worked out that way so far, but there’s still a lot of talent and time to turn it around.

5.  Indianapolis Colts (last week: 7, up two spots, season high 5, season low 7)-  Peyton Manning is in mid-season form and looks like he might make yet another MVP run.  He’ll have to keep that up to make up for the defensive struggles and lack of a running game, but if any QB in the league can pull it off, it’s the elder Manning.  Handing a beating to little brother Eli takes some of the sting away from the loss to Houston.

4.  New England Patriots (last week: 2, fell two spots, season high 2, season low 4)-  The Pats looked average against the Jets last week, and in the second half against Cincinnati in week one.  So, are they the world-beaters of the first half of week one or the mediocre team ever since?  It’s likely somewhere in between.  This team still has issues that need to be resolved before I can comfortably say that New England is back.

3.  Miami Dolphins (last week: 6, up three spots, season high 3, season low 6)-  Sure, the offense hasn’t clicked yet, but winning in Minnesota helps.  There are signs that the Dolphins might be on the way to putting up more points, but the next three weeks may tell the tale of the season with games against the Jets, Patriots and Ravens.  If they manage to win at least two of those three, there should be little doubt that Miami is a legitimate threat for the Superbowl.

2.  Pittsburgh Steelers (last week: 5, up three spots, season high 2, season low 5)-  Even without Big Ben, Pittsburgh has looked good so far, especially on defense.  They’ve embarassed Matt Ryan and Vince Young in consecutive weeks, and are developing a reputation as quarterback killers.  In a few weeks, Ben will be back from suspension, and if the offense matches the defense, watch out!

1.  Houston Texans (last week: 1, even, season high 1, season low 1)-  For a while last week, it looked as though Houston was going to lose both the game and the top spot on this list.  But a furious late rally against Washington changed all that.  Those are the kinds of early season wins that teams build championship runs behind.  Even still, the Texans have to get their pass defense in order.  They can’t keep giving up 400 yards a game, because however good their offense is, eventually, that will catch up to them.  But for now, they’re still number one.

Instead of making preseason NFL predictions this year, I decided to wait until some actual games were played to rank the teams.  That way, actual performance on the field would theoretically be more important than hype.  Two things seems pretty clear so far, the AFC is a much, much deeper conference, and both western divisions could conceivably send under .500 teams to the playoffs.  So, here goes, my first NFL power rankings of the year, AFC version.

16.  Cleveland Browns-  Jake Delhomme looks suspiciously like the turnover machine that lost his job in Carolina last year in their road loss to somewhat-less-putrid Tampa Bay.  Holmgren or no, these guys still suck.

15.  Buffalo Bills-  The passing game is awful, the rushing game is worse and they lost at home.  But at least they were competitive against a pretty good Miami team.  That gets them a nod over Cleveland.

14.  Denver Broncos-  This team, outside of a few players, is just plain bad.  This season will likely be closer to the 2-8 finish to last year than the 6-0 start.  Getting pretty handily beaten by a mediocre Jacksonville team is a bad start.

13.  Oakland Raiders-  This team is precisely why I wanted to avoid preseason hype.  Lots of people were talking playoffs for the Raiders.  Seriously?  They played a genuinely good team in Tennessee and showed why they’re still not ready for prime time by getting beaten worse than anyone other than San Francisco.  Bad week for the Bay area.

12.  Kansas City Chiefs-  Sure they beat the only supposedly good team in either western division in San Diego, but Matt Cassell was the worst QB in the league.  Their running game alone could be enough to win this division, but that is not saying much.

11.  Jacksonville Jaguars-  Yes, they beat Denver pretty easily at home, and David Garrard looked the part of a real quarterback.  But playing in a division with Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee is going to make for a long season.

10.  San Diego Chargers-   Even though they lost, the Chargers are still better than Kansas City.  However, Ryan Matthews looked like the early-season favorite for bust of the year, and without Vincent Jackson, the passing attack looked pedestrian, even with one of the top QB’s in the league in Phillip Rivers.

9.  Cincinnati Bengals-  Losing to New England in Foxboro is nothing to be ashamed of.  But the big question for Cincinnati is if they are the team that got blown out in the first half or played well in the second half.

8.  New York Jets-  The defense lived up to its billing, holding Baltimore to only 10 points.  Unfortunately, the offense only scored 9.  Losing a close game at home to a Superbowl contender makes the Jets a good team but not a great one.

7.  Indianapolis Colts-  Wow, is their run defense bad.  Peyton Manning went wild through the air, but it wasn’t enough to win in Houston.  It could be an uncharacteristic long season in Indy, having Chris Johnson, Vince Young and Maurice Jones-Drew running the ball in their division.

6.  Miami Dolphins-  Sure, the Fins weren’t spectacular or flashy, by they dominated the Bills on defense and time of possession on the road.  They may only get stronger as the year goes on.

5.  Pittsburgh Steelers-  Every win they can get before Big Ben comes off suspension is gravy for this team.  If the defense holds up as it did against Atlanta,  by season’s end, they will be a real player in the Superbowl hunt.

4.  Tennessee Titans-  Vince Young looks like he may finally have figured things out, Chris Johnson is the best back in the league and they just stomped the Oakland Raiders’ bandwagon out of existence. If the Colts can’t stop the run, Tennessee will eat them for lunch.

3.  Baltimore Ravens-  The defense is already in mid-season form after holding the much-hyped Jets to single digits.  The offense wasn’t exactly brilliant, but it’s bound to get better against defenses that aren’t one of the top two or three in the league.  They have a strong-armed quarterback, quality receivers all over the field, a deep and talented backfield and a first rate defense.  They might be this season’s Saints.

2.  New England Patriots-  They looked absolutely dominant in the first half against Cincinnati, then took their foot off the gas a bit.  If they stay healthy and focused, a run at a playoff bye is a definite possibility.

1.  Houston Texans-  Matt Schaub had a very average game, but the emergence of a monster running game led the way in a victory over the defending AFC champs.  The defense did allow over 400 yards passing and three touchdowns, which is concerning.  But the Colts also happen to have the best passing offense in the league, so it’s understandable.  The offense will get better, and the defense should, too.  Finally, this will be the year the Texans made a play for the top of the AFC.