Sunday, January 03, 2016

New Year Updates

First the (unexpected) good news for Steelers fans: they're in the playoffs.  After they unaccountably lost to a terrible Ravens team (for the second time this season), they needed Buffalo to defeat the Jets, and they had to win against an even more terrible team, the Browns.  Underdog Buffalo did win, and the Steelers mostly let Cleveland defeat itself.  Within minutes after the game, just about everybody on the Browns was fired.  Quarterback Johnny Football was reportedly in Las Vegas gambling.

The Steelers are the sixth seed but they won their first Super Bowl of this century from that position.  However the difference is in the Bad News: in the Cleveland game, running back DeAngelo Williams had what looks like a serious ankle injury.  Not many teams had a running back as good as Williams when their star running back went down for the season.  But if Williams is gone, too, the Steelers prospects even for a win against the Bengals in the wild card game are pretty dim.  Even the ever-impressive receiver Antonio Brown can't win it by himself.

That's the difference--the Steelers got healthy at the end of the seasons when they got to the Super Bowl and won it.  They are not healthy now, and though essentially backing into a playoff spot isn't fatal (witness the 2014 SF Giants in baseball), they already have little margin for error, without a dominating defense.

What the Steelers do have going for them is playoff experience, especially at quarterback but also across the team.  That made a big difference for the 2014 Giants, who had great heroic moments but also profited mightily from the jitters and mistakes of opponents.  The Steelers will need lots of mistakes by their opponents to get very far.

On the other hand there's an NBA team so deep that injuries barely register: the Golden State Warriors.  Steph Curry's current nagging bruise is clearly having an impact, but in the 3 games he didn't play or played little, the Warriors won two.  If not Klay Thompson, then Draymon Green or somebody else steps up and looks superhuman.   Granted the Warriors haven't been putting teams away lately but a record of 31-2 is merely ridiculous.

In baseball, everybody's waiting for the remaining name free agent outfielders to make their choices, but none of them are.  It's rumored that the Giants are actively interested in at least one, but of course nobody really knows.  There's certainly no panic about it in San Francisco.

Meanwhile the Pirates seem to be having a decent off-season with acquisitions.  There are several ex-Giants on the team now, most recently pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.  With the Cubs making a big offseason push to dominate in the division, the Pirates are basically strong but will need perseverance and steadiness to weather things in the toughest division in baseball.

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