When the Steelers go out on Monday night, there will be many questions about their sputtering offense and their tiring defense.
Even if coach Mike Tomlin’s team beats its two-game losing streak in Cincinnati, the fan base will get that result with a big grain of salt. Which could probably be helpful if you continue to dig out of this week’s winter storm.
This is due to the fact that their opponent, the modest Bengals (2-11-1), has scored only 50 points in the last five games.
But a problem should be clear by Tuesday morning. Except for the Bengals’ huge upset, the Steelers will be AFC North champions.
A Steelers victory will officially eliminate the Cleveland Browns from the division dispute. They could even have the division sewn until they go out on Monday night if the Browns lose to the New York Giants on Sunday night.
So let’s take a look at that game and all the other contests this weekend that could influence the Steelers and their playoffs in front of “Monday Night Football.”
AFC North: I assume that the Steelers will not receive assistance from the teams that will play their divisional enemies on Sunday.
The Browns’ defensive troubles (9-4) on Monday night, following their 47-42 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, will not be this week as they visit the Giants (5-8) on Sunday night.
The status of Giants defender Daniel Jones is still unclear due to an ankle problem. If he can’t play, former Browns QB Colt McCoy will have to start for New York. McCoy helped the Giants win when they shared time with Jones in a 19-17 win over the Bengals three weeks ago. He then stunned the Seattle Seahawks with a 17-12 victory and wiped out a 26-7 loss to Arizona last week.
However, McCoy totaled only 154 yards during those outings, and the Giants are averaging 14.3 points per game in the last three contests.
Expect the Browns to stay alive in the division race for another 24 hours and improve their wild-card positioning. I beat Cleveland 29-14.
Meanwhile, the Ravens (8-5) cannot win the North because they lost twice against the Steelers. But they can still slip into the playoffs. No doubt they will take the first step this weekend against the pathetic Jacksonville Jaguars (1-12).
I know Gardner Minshew is back at the Jags. And I know most Baltimore receivers are on the covid-19 list. It won’t matter. This will encourage Lamar Jackson and company to run even further. Anyway, that’s what the Ravens do best.
Ravens runs 33-16.
The bosses and bills: Most of Pittsburgh seems to have been persuaded to believe that the Kansas City Chiefs (12-1) will lose to the New Orleans Saints (10-3) this weekend, and that will keep their weak hopes alive. Steelers for first place in the AFC playoff picture.
I didn’t do it. I feel that the only two cities in America that think hard about this are Pittsburgh and New Orleans (10-3).
Kansas City is a 3.5-point favorite. I say they will win and cover.
But even if they don’t, they would still be behind the bosses in terms of tiebreaks, because they defeated Buffalo Bills, and they didn’t.
So, even with a loss to New Orleans, the Chiefs would still be in the driver’s seat, until or if they lose to Atlanta (4-9) or the Los Angeles Chargers (5-9).
Speaking of Bill (10-3), they have a Saturday afternoon (16:30 ET) adventure in Denver. Bronchitis (5-8) can be difficult. Especially at home. There are invalid people with 5.5 points. It may cover. But I still like Bills to get the victory no. 11 and enter a half-game of the Steelers for second place in the conference.
By the way, Buffalo’s last two games after Denver are not easy. But the bills should win them both. I’m in New England in week 16. Then I’m hosting the Miami Dolphins in week 17.
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans don’t seem to be shaking each other.
They are both 9-4. They shared a recent set of games against each other. They are equal for the leadership of the division. But the Titans have the advantage of breaking the tie now, by virtue of a better divisional record. I’m 4-1 in the south. Colts are 2-2.
Their programs are similar along the way. They should both win on Sunday. Indy hosts the Houston Texans 4-9. Tennessee welcomes the 5-8 lei.
Then everyone has heavy games next week, as the Colts have to come to Heinz Field and the Titans go to Green Bay (10-3).
Both clubs should be big favorites to win their last games in week 17, as the Titans are at home in Houston and their fangs are in Jacksonville.
If you guessed me right now, the Titans win two, but lose to Green Bay to finish 11-5. Meanwhile, the Colts win all three. Yes, including defeating the Steelers next week.
That’s unless Ben Roethlisberger and company realize their anemic crime in a hurry. Colts’ defense is the sixth in the NFL in yards per game allowed (327.1). The Steelers are ranked 23rd in offensive yards per game (335.5).
Miami dolphins: If the playoffs started right now – and as you may have noticed, no – the Dolphins (8-5) would be at Heinz Field during the first playoff weekend as the seventh seed. The Steelers would have hosted them as the second head behind KC
Miami is a beautiful story. But they’re likely to lose in Buffalo on Jan. 3, and I think they’ll be an upset victim this week when the Patriots call Sunday afternoon. Pats wins 23-21.
If I’m right when the Dolphins sink while the Chiefs, Bills and Colts remain undefeated, then that means the Steelers would be the third or fourth seed, depending on what happens in their Week 17 game against the Browns.
And he would have hosted the Baltimore, Tennessee or Browns again in the first week of the playoffs instead of Miami.
So in other words, if you’re looking for Steelers to get a lot of help this weekend before you start in Cincinnati on Monday night … don’t bother.
This week, I completed Mark Madden at 105.9 Jeremy Fowler of X. ESPN was at the show. We talked at length about the image of the AFC playoffs. I withdrew some of his comments for Friday’s podcast.
Sport | Steelers / NFL | Breakfast with Benz | Tim Benz columns