My picks to win are in bold.
Note: The Thursday night game between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers has been excluded.
New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers
Tough game but Giants offense will be the difference.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
Saints struggle on the road and Falcons have finally gone back to the run.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
Andy Dalton has played well, but he hasn’t faced a defense like the Steelers yet.
St. Louis Rams @ Cleveland Browns
Browns are horrendous on offense. Steven Jackson and Brandon Lloyd should have huge games.
Buffalo Bills @ Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys are without Miles Austin, and Bills want revenge after suffering a beatdown at home.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
MJD should run for miles.
Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs
Tebow will find a way to get the dubb.
Washington Redskins @ Miami Dolphins
Dolphins aren’t as bad as their record says they are.
Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles
No DeSean Jackson but this is a must win.
Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Bucs
Gerald McCoy is out for the season. Not good against the league’s best rushing attack.
Tennessee Titans @ Carolina Panthers
Chris Johnson has been nonexistent.
Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks commit too many turnovers.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
Bears are playing tremendously on both sides of the ball.
New England Patriots @ New York Jets
Tom Brady is 0-2 on the road against Rex Ryan’s Jets.
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
Should be a shootout, but Vikings can’t hang with Rodgers and co.
*Last Week: 8-6
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported yesterday that the 6-time Pro Bowler underwent off-season surgery to repair a torn ACL. Some reports have said T.O. sustained the injury while performing a personal workout, while others are reporting he sustained it while taping a show for VH1. The 37-year old wide-receiver formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals will be out for at least Read more…
Amidst all the recent success and the hype that has come with it, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) are still nowhere near a deal. The July 1st deadline is looming and it’s almost inevitable at this point, there will be a lockout in the NBA. The owners and players are talking, they are still world’s apart on very important issues such as a hard or soft salary cap and guaranteed contracts. The owners are adamant in their stance in favor of a hard salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts. Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers point guard and president of the NBPA, said “the owners have informed him that if the players do not accept what has been offered to them thus far then there will be a lockout.” So, although the NBA is on the rise and gaining momentum, due in large part to compelling storylines like the star-studded Miami Heat, the veteran laden Dallas Mavericks, and the up and coming Oklahoma City Thunder, it seems like the NBA will fail to capitalize on their recent success and ultimately follow the same crooked path of the NFL.
Packers @ Bears
There’s no secret between these two divisional foes. The Packers and Bears know each other inside and out. I think this will be a relatively low scoring affair as a sloppy Soldier Field, hasty weather conditions, and two aggressive defenses will make their mark on this game. The Packers are hot, plain and simple. But at the same time, the Bears were the ones that won their division; the ones that earned a playoff bye and home field advantage, and yet are being somewhat disrespected in the eyes of the media. I think this game will come down to two matchups. The first being the offensive line of the Packers versus the defensive front of the Bears which includes the likes of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Julius Peppers just to name a few. The second matchup being between the quarterbacks, Rodgers versus Cutler. Who will get the most protection? Who will make the clutch throws? Who will protect the football? In my opinion, the quarterback that answers these questions will go onto the Super Bowl and I think Aaron Rodgers will be that guy.
Packers win 21 – 17
Jets @ Steelers
The Jets have changed their tone in the week leading up to the AFC Championship Game, swapping their hate for Brady and the Patriots with love for Big Ben and the Steelers. But don’t let their lack of trash talk fool you, the Jets still have a tremendous amount of confidence going into hostile Pittsburgh as they have already defeated the Steelers in Heinz Field during the regular season, albeit without arguably the most valuable player to their specific team in Troy Polamalu. Sanchez and the Jets have become road warriors throughout their last two playoff appearances, but I just have a feeling that it’s all going to catch up with them in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger is 4-1 against Rex Ryan coached defenses in his career and all signs point to a healthy Troy Polamalu playing in this week’s game. The Jets rushed for 89 yards against the Steelers in their regular season matchup, but the Steelers only allow 63 yards per game to opposing running backs. The Jets HAVE TO run the ball effectively in order to win games and I don’t see them having success against the best run stoppers in the game, especially without Damien Woody. I think Big Ben will out play Sanchez and the Steelers will be making yet another Super Bowl appearance.
Steelers win 23 – 16
#5 Ravens @ #2 Steelers
One word can sum up this game: WAR. This is an old-fashioned brawl between two hated rivals. I think both teams will try to establish the run and both Reshard Mendenhall and Ray Rice will find that it’s going to be easier said then done as the Steelers and Ravens are very strong up front. This game is going to be decided by the quarterbacks, Roethlisberger and Flacco. So, with that in mind, I have to go with Roethlisberger as he’s undefeated in the AFC Divisional Round when the Steelers have a bye, plus he’s at home. I think this will be a low scoring, dirty, hard-fought, bitter battle between not only two of the best defensive units in football but two of the best teams in the NFL. Can’t wait for this game, like I said previously: it’s going to be an all out WAR.
Steelers win 16 – 13
#6 Jets @ #1 Patriots
If you thought Rex Ryan’s comments on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots straddled the line separating confidence and utter stupidity then Antonio Cromartie’s latest choice words on the “Golden Boy” definitely pushed over into the stupidity category. All this talk is just more unnecessary fuel for the fire for Belichick and the Pats. Ryan, Cromartie, and the rest of the Jets have dug their own grave and come this Sunday their coffin will be nailed and the dirt thrown on top. I think Brady and Belichick will put yet another beat down on the cocky Jets and win by double-digits in their business-as-usual demeanor. I look for the game to be close at first, but Brady will torch the Jets secondary for 3 tds en route to another AFC Championship Game.
Patriots win 31 – 16
#6 Packers @ #1 Falcons
The Falcons escaped with a narrow 3-point win at home against the Packers in their regular season showdown, and I see the playoff matchup between these teams will pretty much follow suit. Aaron Rodgers earned his first playoff game last week on the road in hostile Philly against the Eagles. He’s carried the Packers for the entire season, especially during the last few weeks, but I see that all coming to an end against the Matt Ryan led Atlanta Falcons. ”Matty Ice” has only lost twice at home in his entire career and although I think this will be another grind-it-out game that comes down to the last second, I’ll give the slight edge to Ryan and the Falcons. The Falcons have had a knack for coming away with the “W” in close games as they have an impressive 6-2 record in games decided by 6 points or less this season.
Falcons win 26 – 24
#4 Seahawks @ #2 Bears
The Seahawks come into this game with absolutely no pressure on them yet again as nobody thought they would even make the playoffs, let alone beat the defending champs and play in the NFC Divisional Round. Seattle actually beat the Bears in their week 6 matchup, but I don’t see the same result this time around. The Seahawks will face a much tougher defense in the Bears then they did last week when they beat the Saints. I think it’s safe to say that Marshawn Lynch will not break 8 tackles en route to a 60-plus yard td run and Matt Hasselbeck will not throw 4 td passes against a very stout Bears defense. The only concern I have about the Bears is with quarterback Jay Cutler, who’s the epitome of recklessness and inconsistency. This will be Cutler’s first ever playoff game and while I do think he will make mistakes, in the form of a pick or two, I don’t think the Seahawks will be able to capitalize on them against the Bears’ strong defense.
Bears win 23 – 14
With the recent concussion epidemic sweeping across the NFL, I figured this would be a good time to give my take on this serious topic. Instead of boring you to death with the same stats and opinions on concussions in the NFL, I’ve instead focused my attention on concussions in sports across all platforms. So, here it is. Hope you enjoy.
Have you ever played sports? Chances are the answer to this question is yes. Everyone involved with sports in any way should know about the risk of sports-related concussions. According to McKeever and Schatz (2003), over 300,000 sport-related concussions occur every year, of which more than 62,000 are sustained by high school athletes and college football players (p.5). This alarming statistic puts into perspective just how many people are either directly or indirectly affected by concussions.
So, what is a concussion and what can we do to prevent ourselves from sustaining a concussion? McRory, Meeuwisse, Johnston, Dvorak, Aubry, Molloy, and Cantu (2009) define a concussion as “a complex patho-physiological process affecting the brain, induced by traumatic biomechanical forces” (p.756). Basically, a concussion is a mild brain injury that results in a loss of brain function and includes physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms. It is important to know that concussions can happen at any time while participating in a contact sport and there is little you can do to prevent a concussion from happening. However, you can take the necessary steps following a concussion to reduce the side-effects and increase your chances of a quick and full recovery. In order to know what to do in the event of a concussion you must be educated on the effects of concussions in general, along with the effects that concussions have on different types of people, and the sheer nature of concussions. When it comes to concussions, education is the best and most efficient way to ensure that the proper safety steps are implemented and in turn the necessary precautions are observed.
As you know, concussions affect everyone, no matter their gender or age, but how concussions affect people varies among these factors. Actually, males, females, and youths are all affected differently by concussions. According to McKeever, Schatz, and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (2003), female athletes are at a higher risk of suffering a concussion than male athletes (p.6). Statistical evidence backs up this claim, but anatomical evidence is still lacking. Mckeever and Schatz (2003) surmise that the disparity between men and women who suffer concussions is likely due to neuro-anatomical and neuro-chemical elements (p.6).
Youths are also diversely affected by concussions. Miller (2010) states that over 4 million children play football for their schools; you can just imagine how many more children are playing all of the other sports (p.8). The large amount of youths, as opposed to professionals, participating in sports greatly increases the chances of a large group of adolescents sustaining a concussion. For example, McKeever and Schatz (2003) state that high school athletes are 1.5 times more susceptible to concussions than college athletes who participate in the same sport (p.5). This increase in the chance to sustain a concussion among high school athletes as opposed to college athletes can be attributed to many underlying factors. According to McKeever and Schatz (2003), this higher concussion rate among adolescents can be credited to younger, more susceptible brains, a greater head-to-body ratio, and thinner cranial bones. These factors provide less protection to the developing cortex, thus increasing the chances of sustaining a concussion (p.5). Understanding the diverging effects of concussions on females, males, and youths is imminent in order to administer the right tests and procedures to help aid in the recovery period. This is just another reason why it is extremely important for players, coaches, and parents to be knowledgeable about concussions.
The short and long-term effects of concussions are important factors in determining the severity of a concussion. There are many nagging symptoms that coincide with concussions. According to Ozretic (2010), some short-term effects associated with concussions consist of headaches, trouble balancing, dizziness, confusion, nausea or vomiting, blurred vision, loss of memory, and perseverating (p.140). Iverson, Brooks, Collins, and Lovell (2006) state that these symptoms may last anywhere from 1-10 days, with the majority of athletes recovering from these short-term symptoms within 5-7 days (p.245-246).
Long term effects of concussions are thought to be more serious than short-term effects. Severe concussions along with multiple concussions can cause serious mental and physical problems later on in the victim’s life. Miller (2010) states that repeated blows to the head can cause serious long-term symptoms such as a decrease in motivation and concentration, depression, and memory and learning deficiencies (p.8). According to Majerske, Mihalik, Ren, Collins, Reddy, Lovell, and Wagner (2008), these long-term symptoms linger, nag and ultimately affect neuro-cognitive functions, cell membrane imbalances, memory, attention, and even some motor skills (p.265-266). An article by HealthDay written in US News and World Report Magazine (2009) states that long-term effects such as those mentioned above can still cause adverse effects even over 30 years after suffering a concussion (p.1).
Once sustaining a concussion the necessary steps must be taken to ensure a full recovery. These steps are taken during the time period immediately following a concussion and include important motor skill and brain functioning tests, along with evaluations such as the Sports Concussion Assessment Tool or SCAT2, the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test or ImPACT, and neuro-psychological (NP) testing. McRory et al. (2009) state that those athletes who suffer a concussion should be subject to an immense amount of testing, one of which is the SCAT2 assessment. The SCAT2 evaluates and interprets post-concussion test scores and provides doctors with a solid foundation in understanding the severity of the athlete’s concussion (p.756).
The ImPACT test is a Windows-based computerized concussion evaluating system that is straightforward and easy to administer. Team coaches, athletic trainers, and physicians can govern the ImPACT test with minimal training. ImPACT has many features which include: measuring symptoms, determining reaction time, and provides the player’s mental processing speed through neuro-psychological testing. According to McRory et al. (2009), NP or neuro-psychological tests are usually administered in accordance with or in response to a fMRI or functional MRI. neuropsychological tests can be performed using many different methods such as visual tests, verbal tests, and motor skill tests. The test is scored using a general scale or chart and determines the patient’s raw score by matching it up with the already pre-established scores on the chart. Depending on the outcomes of the other, previously administered tests, the neuro-psychological test is either performed while the patient still has symptoms from the concussion or after he/she is symptom free (p.756-758). The ImPACT along with the SCAT2 and other tests and tools can provide information that can greatly increase the chances of a full recovery. However, these tests and tools become futile if the person administering them is not sufficiently educated on how to deal with a concussion.
How can I become more knowledgeable regarding concussions? Well, as I stated before, concussions can happen at any time and there is little anyone can do to prevent a concussion. The same applies to the ability to treat or reduce the effects of a concussion. Because the abilities to prevent and treat a concussion are minimal, the education of players, coaches, parents, referees, and medical personnel are essential in furthering the development of preventing and treating concussions and providing a time-table for a safe return to the playing field. According to McRory et al. (2009), those involved in sports should be educated on the detection, assessment, and principles of concussions. Some methods of educating include the internet, educational videos, and conventions. In addition to education, ethical values and fair play are also factors in ensuring that the safety of the athletes is the main priority (p.760).
An underlying reason for an increase in concussions can be attributed to “protective” equipment. Pieces of equipment like mouth guards, chin straps, and helmets provide a false sense of security for players. While these pieces of equipment provide protection to the structural parts of the head, they do not provide protection to the actual brain and prevent the trauma it can endure. Many athletes feel invincible and thus feel free to propel their bodies through the air without any regard for their safety or the safety of others. This artificial form of invincibility contributes to the major problem of the fine line between aggression versus violence in sports. This is where instilling respect for yourself and others on the playing field along with continued education concerning safety offers an enormous amount of importance.
With the majority of our society involved in sports in some way, I feel that education on the safety of our athletes is extremely important. According to McKeever and Schatz (2003), “sports-related injuries represent approximately 20% of the estimated 1.54 million head injuries that occur yearly in the United States, and 9% of all sports injuries are thought to be concussions” (p.4). This statistic along with many others provides cause for concern for the safety of all athletes and especially those athletes who are susceptible to or have already sustained a concussion. With over 300,000 sports-related concussions occurring every year, it is more important than ever to be educated about concussions.
The #1 seed Colts and #2 seed Chargers are rewarded with a first round bye.
#6 Ravens @ #3 Patriots
The Ravens have the advantage on the defensive side of the ball, but this years’ defense isn’t nearly as dominant as years past. The Patriots lost Wes Welker, their most consistent wide-receiver to injury (torn ACL & MCL) in week 17 and will be without him for the postseason. I think even without Welker, the Patriots still have too much on offense for the Ravens to keep up with. I look for it to be a good game, but in the end the Patriots will be advancing into the divisional round.
Prediction – Patriots
#5 Jets @ #4 Bengals
The Jets absolutely demolished the Bengals in the Meadowlands in their week 17 matchup. The Jets ran all over the Bengals injury plagued defensive line. Their effectiveness on the ground allowed for only 15 pass attempts for Mark Sanchez which limits the chance of turnovers and greatly increases the Jets’ chances for a victory. With that being said, I think the Bengals have the advantage in the playoffs. Chad Ochocinco is questionable with a left knee injury, but Cedric Benson will be back along with many key players on the defensive line. The Bengals have to be able to move the ball through the air and stop the run in order to defeat the Jets. They must force the Jets to throw the ball with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. If the Bengals can execute their game plan than they have a chance to win, if not then we might see a repeat of their week 17 matchup.
Prediction – Bengals
The #1 seed Saints and #2 seed Vikings are rewarded with a first round bye.
#6 Eagles @ #3 Cowboys
The Cowboys and Eagles are familiar with each other to say the least. The ‘Boys have beaten the Eagles both times they have played them this season and have shown that they can win with both stout defense and an offensive explosion. With that being said, the Eagles are a veteran team with a lot of weapons on offense and a defense that is superb at creating turnovers. I think that the Eagles’ experience coupled with the Cowboys’ lack of performing under pressure are the main factors that will ultimately send the Eagles into the next round.
Prediction - Eagles
#5 Packers @ #4 Cardinals
The Packers versus Cardinals is one of the most intriguing matchups in the wild-card round. Both teams have explosive offenses with big-time play-makers at the wide-receiver position. So this game will come down to two things: who can run the ball and who can get the big stops on defense? The Packers and Cardinals have both shown the potential to sustain a consistent running game, but neither team has totally committed to the run game. Therefore, I think that the team with the most consistent defense will ultimately prevail with the win and the Packers are that team. The Packers have veterans in the secondary like Charles Woodson who create turnovers and young, athletic linebackers like A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews, and Nick Barnett who fly to the ball.
Prediction - Packers
1) Colts (14-1) – LW 1
2) Chargers (12-3) – LW 3
3) Saints (13-2) – LW 2
4) Eagles (11-4) – LW 5
5) Vikings (11-4) – LW 4
6) Cardinals (10-5) – LW 6
7) Bengals (10-5) – LW 8
8) Packers (10-5) – LW 7
9) Patriots (10-5) – LW 9
10) Cowboys (10-5) – LW 10
11) Ravens (8-7) – LW 11
12) Broncos (8-7) – LW 13
13) Steelers (8-7) – LW 15
14) Falcons (8-7) – LW 18
15) Jets (8-7) – LW 19
16) Texans (8-7) – LW 21
17) Giants (8-7) – LW 12
18) Titans (7-8) – LW 14
19) Dolphins (7-8) – LW 16
20) Jaguars (7-8) – LW 17
21) Panthers (7-8) – LW 21
22) 49ers (7-8) – LW 22
23) Bears (6-9) - LW 25
24) Raiders (5-10) – LW 23
25) Bills (5-10) – LW 26
26) Seahawks (5-10) – LW 24
27) Browns (4-11) – LW 29
28) Redskins (4-11) – LW 27
29) Bucs (3-12) – LW 30
30) Chiefs (3-12) – LW 28
31) Lions (2-13) – LW 31
32) Rams (1-14) – LW 32
1) Colts (14-0) – LW 2
2) Saints (13-1) – LW 1
3) Chargers (11-3) – LW 4
4) Vikings (11-3) – LW 3
5) Eagles (10-4) – LW 5
6) Cardinals (9-5) – LW 8
7) Packers (9-5) – LW 6
8) Bengals (9-5) – LW 7
9) Patriots (9-5) – LW 10
10) Cowboys (9-5) – LW 11
11) Ravens (8-6) – LW 13
12) Giants (8-6) – LW 14
13) Broncos (8-6) – LW 9
14) Titans (7-7) – LW 17
15) Steelers (7-7) – LW 19
16) Dolphins (7-7) – LW 12
17) Jaguars (7-7) – LW 15
18) Falcons (7-7) – LW 18
19) Jets (7-7) – LW 16
20) Texans (7-7) – LW 21
21) Panthers (6-8) – LW 22
22) 49ers (6-8) – LW 20
23) Raiders (5-9) – LW 27
24) Seahawks (5-9) – LW 24
25) Bears (5-9) – LW 23
26) Bills (5-9) – LW 25
27) Redskins (4-10) – LW 26
28) Chiefs (3-11) – LW 28
29) Browns (3-11) – LW 30
30) Bucs (2-12) – LW 31
31) Lions (2-12) – LW 29
32) Rams (1-13) – LW 32
1) Saints (13-0) – LW 1
2) Colts (13-0) – LW 2
3) Vikings (11-2) – LW 3
4) Chargers (10-3) – LW 4
5) Eagles (9-4) – LW 8
6) Packers (9-4) – LW 7
7) Bengals (9-4) – LW 5
8) Cardinals (8-5) – LW 6
9) Broncos (8-5) – LW 9
10) Patriots (8-5) – LW 11
11) Cowboys (8-5) – LW 10
12) Dolphins (7-6) – LW 14
13) Ravens (7-6) – LW 16
14) Giants (7-6) – LW 12
15) Jaguars (7-6) – LW 13
16) Jets (7-6) – LW 19
17) Titans (6-7) – LW 17
18) Falcons (6-7) – LW 18
19) Steelers (6-7) – LW 15
20) 49ers (6-7) – LW 21
21) Texans (6-7) – LW 23
22) Panthers (5-8) – LW 20
23) Bears (5-8) – LW 22
24) Seahawks (5-8) – LW 24
25) Bills (5-8) – LW 26
26) Redskins (4-9) – LW 27
27) Raiders (4-9) – LW 25
28) Chiefs (3-10) – LW 28
29) Lions (2-11) – LW 29
30) Browns (2-11) – LW 32
31) Bucs (1-12) – LW 30
32) Rams (1-12) – LW 31
1) Saints (12-0) – LW 1
The Saints capitalized on a chip-shot missed field goal and came away with a 33-30 victory in overtime against the Redskins.
2) Colts (12-0) – LW 2
The Colts kept their undefeated season alive with a win against the streaking Titans.
3) Vikings (10-2) – LW 3
Favre finally looked human against a stifling Cardinals defense.
4) Chargers (9-3) – LW 4
The Chargers are on an impressive 7 game win streak.
5) Bengals (9-3) – LW 5
They clinched their first winning record since 1991 with their win against the Lions last week.
6) Cardinals (8-4) – LW 6
The Cardinals are a surprising 3-3 at home and 5-1 on the road this season.
7) Packers (8-4) – LW 10
The Packer’s defense, which is rated #1 overall, was flying around the field in their MNF win against the Ravens.
8) Eagles (8-4) – LW 9
They took advantage of an injury plagued Falcons team last week.
9) Broncos (8-4) – LW 12
An absolute rout of the Chiefs helped the Broncos keep pace in the top-heavy AFC West.
10) Cowboys (8-4) – LW 8
Their usual December woes began with their loss against the Giants last week.
11) Patriots (7-5) – LW 7
They just can’t get it done in Miami.
12) Giants (7-5) – LW 14
The only time the Giants show some spirit is when they play the Cowboys.
13) Jaguars (7-5) – LW 17
A win against the Dolphins next week will put them in great position to make the playoffs.
14) Dolphins (6-6) – LW 19
Chad Henne is growing into a better qb everyday.
15) Steeleres (6-6) – LW 11
They’re to good to keep blowing these leads.
16) Ravens (6-6) – LW 13
Their offense has struggled for most of the season.
17) Titans (5-7) – LW 15
Wasted opportunities stopped the Titans 5 game win streak.
18) Falcons (6-6) – LW 16
Injuries to Matt Ryan and Michael Turner were too much to overcome against the Eagles.
19) Jets (6-6) – LW 21
Rookie Mark Sanchez will not play next week due to a knee injury.
20) Panthers (5-7) – LW 22
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.
21) 49ers (5-7) – LW 20
Vernon Davis has emerged as a legitimate, consistent threat in the passing game.
22) Bears (5-7) – LW 23
Not an impressive win against a bad Rams team.
23) Texans (5-7) – LW 18
They have the talent but they don’t know how to play a complete 60 minutes.
24) Seahawks (5-7) – LW 25
One week they’re impressive, the next week they look horrible.
25) Raiders (4-8) – LW 28
Gradkowski to Murphy is looking like a solid combination the past 3 weeks, just ask the Steelers.
26) Bills (4-8) – LW 24
No offense and a poor run defense aren’t a great combination for success.
27) Redskins (3-9) – LW 27
Tough loss against the undefeated Saints. Suisham has to make that chip-shot field goal.
28) Chiefs (3-9) – LW 26
Embarrassing outing at home against the Broncos.
29) Lions (2-10) – LW 29
Stafford is out next week due to a shoulder injury.
30) Bucs (1-11) – LW 30
Rookie qb Josh Freeman’s 5 interceptions were too much for the Bucs to overcome and beat the Panthers.
31) Rams (1-11) – LW 31
Injuries have absolutely dismantled the Rams.
32) Browns (1-11) – LW 32
Another loss at home, they’re now 0-5.
Coming into the season the Patriots and Steelers were seen as hands down legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but after week 13 they are both in a battle just to get into the playoffs. Have the Steelers’ and Patriots’ dynasties ended? Can we no longer call them “elite?”
At 7-5 overall and 1-5 on the road this season, the Patriots do not look to have their usual swagger and aura surrounding them as in years past. Tom Brady and the offense look to have things looking pretty much normal, but the defense is what has let them down time and time again this season. The once bend but don’t break, get the stops when you need them defense of old has lost some key veterans like Teddy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, and others that had a nack for key plays in big moments. The Patriots defense is ranked 11th in total yards per game allowing 322 yards. They also rank 14th in pass defense allowing 214 yards per game and 15th in rush defense allowing 108 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry. The most surprising stat is that the usually opportunistic Patriot defense is only towards the middle of the pack in the NFL in terms of takeaways with 22. If the Patriots can’t find a way to develop their young defense and have them playing in true form on a consistent basis then we might be witnessing the end of Bill Belichick’s and the Patriots’ dynasty and thus their “elite” stature.
The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers have dropped 4 straight, the latest loss coming courtesy of the now 4-8 Raiders and a touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski to Louis Murphy with 9 seconds remaining in the game. The Steelers seemed to have lost their killer instinct and have had a huge amount of trouble putting teams away and holding onto the lead, especially in the 4th quarter. The 6-6 Steelers are in danger of missing the playoffs after winning 2 Super Bowls in the last 4 seasons. The Steelers have struggled within their own division, compiling a 1-4 record against division foes with their only win coming against the horrendous Browns. The Steelers offense hasn’t been the problem as they rank in the top half in every major offensive statistical category, rather it has been the struggles in the defensive secondary. The Steelers pass defense ranks 17th in the NFL allowing 220 passing yards per game. They have also allowed 15 passing touchdowns already this season and have only 8 interceptions. This comes in contrary to last years Super Bowl winning team that was ranked 1st in passing defense, gave up only 12 touchdowns through the air the entire season, and had 20 interceptions. The Steelers have to win their last 4 games in order to potentially put themselves in the playoff picture, but the first thing they have to attend to is finding a way to get that nasty, confident attitude back. If they can find their swagger then they have a chance, but for now they look to be just another average team, and their “intimidation factor” is rapidly dwindling week after week.