Network Notebook: Will the Pittsburgh Steelers Break Your Heart
PITSBURGH STEELERS GRAB TWO HUGE WINS, BUT CAN YOU COUNT ON THEM WHEN IT MATTERS?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are now the new "it" team in the AFC. As they prepare for a big Sunday Night matchup on NBC against the Detroit Lions, the Steelers find themselves front and center in Super Bowl discussions.
*New England looks to be getting old on offense, and can't be trusted to play defense each and every week.
*Kansas City is always going to be a contender, yet always seems likely to bang their heads on the ceiling come playoff time.
*Nobody in the AFC South seems ready to string together playoff wins.
*Denver and Oakland went from scary threats to likely pretenders with issues on one side of the ball or the other.
Frankly, it's a short list of SERIOUS Super Bowl threats in the AFC right now. Any team that looks good for a couple of games is going to move to the top of the list.
*Two weeks ago, Pittsburgh won at Kansas City 19-13, They played more impressively than the final score makes it sound...winning total yardage 439-251 and yards-per-play 7.0 to 4.8. The Chiefs were undefeated at the time...and that was a legitimately great win for the Steelers.
*Last week, Pittsburgh manhandled Cincinnati 29-14. For some reason, they were only laying -3.5 points against the outmatched Bengals. No letdown after the win at KC. Pittsburgh won total yardage 420-179, and yards-per-play 6.2 to 3.5. Great result...but Cincinnati's nothing special this season.
Is that enough to make Pittsburgh a real front runner? Yes, they're "capable" of greatness. They're also capable of losing at home to Jacksonville 30-9 because of a turnover implosion, or losing on the road at Chicago because of overconfidence. No margin for error in this year's NFL.
Sunday night's road game at Detroit provides an interesting test. After two straight high intensity matchups (undefeated opponent, hated divisional rival), Pittsburgh visits a non-conference non-entity who may not get their juices flowing. That sure happened on the road against Chicago of the NFC North. And Detroit's better than Chicago. Flat and unprepared Pittsburgh isn't just an upset victim candidate, but can be blowout fodder if Big Ben Roesthlisberger tries to force too many passes.
JIM HURLEY will be watching this game very closely. If Pittsburgh impresses in a tough schedule spot (against a host coming off a bye week), then you really do have to place them at the top of the AFC ladder. They proved superiority to Kansas City on the road...and New England is still trying to figure out how they're going to reach peak performance. But, if the Steelers can't make it three straight good games...how are they going to win three straight come playoff time against teams more challenging than Cincinnati and Detroit?
We'll learn a lot about the AFC chase in this matchup. Hopefully you learned a lot about who to trust with your handicapping dollars this past Thursday when NETWORK selection Baltimore (-3) crushed Miami 40-0! That was a 37-point cover which was never in doubt. They're not all that easy. But, they're all that well-researched, well-studied, and well-handicapped. Only JIM HURLEY has put together a TEAM HANDICAPPING approach that covers every game from every angle. Only a handful of "top percentage" plays make the cut for release to clients.
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Back with you Monday to preview a major college football showdown. There's a slew of them to choose from on Saturday November 4...
#2 Penn State at #16 Michigan State
#7 Clemson at #14 NC State
#10 Oklahoma at #11 Oklahoma State
#13 Virginia Tech at #8 Miami
#20 Stanford at #15 Washington State
#6 Ohio State (who might be higher by then) at dangerous Iowa
#23 LSU at #1 Alabama
Holy cow! We go weeks with very few good games on Saturdays...and then the whole dam busts loose on the first Saturday of November. We'll see what happens this week before finalizing our plans for that Monday preview.
Last week in this spot we talked about the Philadelphia Eagles having a chance to prove they were best in the NFC. They came through with flying colors in an easy win over Washington. Now, another team from Pennsylvania has the chance to do that in the other conference in a big TV matchup. Are we destined for an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl?!
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