On Sunday night the Pittsburgh Steelers once again came from behind and for the third straight game won on a field goal with under a minute to play (the previous two were last-second walkoffs.) This victory gave them the AFC championship. But their defense, particularly defensive secondary, was criticized as weak.
On Monday night the New England Patriots fell to Miami because of what was described as a chaotic offense. The two teams meet on Sunday to decide the division champion who gets home field in the playoffs. It's very likely they will face each other again in those playoffs.
In the past weekend's games, the Steelers felt the absence of injured defensive captain Ryan Shazier. The Patriots missed tight end Gronkowski. The difference this coming weekend is that Gronk will be back, but Shazier will not. His injury suffered in a particularly brutal game against the Bengals is so severe that he may not play ever again. And yes, I'm feeling very guilty for continuing to follow football because so little has been done to prevent all these devastating injuries. But I feel its days are numbered and besides there's so much else I'm trying to avoid following in the news.
Tom Brady is unlikely to have two bad games in a row, and with Gronk back and the Steelers struggling to put up enough points to overcome their defensive lapses, the Patriots have the edge. There were very good signs for the Steelers in the Ravens game Sunday, especially long pass routes (and the offensive line providing the time), which together with past victories indicates that they can win with various combinations of run, short pass and long pass offenses. So they can't be counted out by any means.
Meanwhile in the NBA the Dubs have undergone an array of injuries in which one or two principal players have been out in one game, with a couple of elite reserves unavailable. They've still won. They completed a 6-0 road trip for the first time in team history. They beat Portland at home without Steph and Green. Top to bottom, the Warriors appear to have an historically great team.
Meanwhile, Cleveland got over its early season confusion and won 13 in a row, while LeBron is having a reportedly banner year. OKC played its best game to beat the Dubs at home and immediately went on a losing streak afterwards. The Clippers have collapsed, Boston has cooled only slightly, Houston continues to make noise and San Antonio once again very quietly wins games.
So at this point the East looks like a battle between Cleveland and Boston. It still does not appear that any team in the West can win a 7 game series against the Warriors, even if they are not at full strength. But several can give them problems. It remains to be seen if OKC is a match-up problem, or whether they had extraordinary performances plus friendly calls and non-calls at home.
The big MLB news is Guancarlo Stanton going to the Yankees, who are once again building a superteam based on power. There's the whiff of the Mantle/Maris years, which fascinated me when I was first getting interested in the game. The San Francisco Giants were the first team Stanton talked to but he passed. Judging from his comments on the Yankees' winning attitude, I suspect he passed on the Giants because he doesn't believe they're going to be contenders again for awhile. Certainly the Yankees, who went deep in the playoffs, are a better bet for next year.
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