Sunday, December 27, 2009

Like I Said

So why aren't I getting the big bucks for sports prognostication, or at least scads of readers hanging on my every wise word? Don't know, but I do know that the Steelers-Ravens game went pretty much as I felt it would. As this report as well as this one confirm, the Steelers won when Baltimore had a bad game--lots of penalties in ridiculously crucial situations, turnovers and a spectacular muff of a pass in the end zone.

Plus, as I suggested, the Steeler defense confounded expectations by shutting down the Ravens in the fourth quarter. Not that they dominated--they lost a 10 point lead in the third quarter, and allowed a big rushing game--first back over a hundred yards in a couple of years--but they came up big on the Ravens' last drive especially.

So now the Steelers and a half dozen other teams are 8-7. The Eagles helped their playoff chances by beating Denver, the Titans lost Thursday, but the Jets unexpectedly ended Indy's undefeated season (and the decision to bench the Indy starters in the 3rd quarter to save them for the playoffs was discussed endlessly on TV), which gets them back in the wild card race. It will all be decided next weekend, the final weekend of the regular season. The Steelers have to win in Miami and hope that several other contending teams (the right ones, like the Ravens) lose.

And now that Indy and New Orleans have joined the teams that look vulnerable, a playoff spot might even be worth having. Still, San Diego and New England are finishing strong, and they're the favorites. I still don't think Indy is as good as its record. In the NFC, Philly is for real, Dallas is not. It should be interesting to see if Minneapolis can play a strong game Monday night against Chicago--not just win, but dominate. Green Bay bounced back well from the loss to the Steelers. Which, by the way, I expect Baltimore to do.

We'll have to see how banged up the Steelers are, going into the Miami game. It's going to be tough--tougher than Miami was today in losing to Houston--but if Troy comes back, that's a big boost. One other good thing about the Steelers game today was the emergence of two young players--an impressive 4th quarter for Ziggy Hood on defense, and a heady start for the recently signed wide receiver, Tyler Grisham, who caught his first NFL pass in a crucial situation. The Steelers have their problems that will have to be addressed after the season, but one good sign of a strong organization is when new players and seldom used players can step into crucial situations and not only do well but make a difference.

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