There’s a lot of scuttlebutt circulating around chat rooms lately regarding the demise of the AFC North. And why not? The current records of the teams therein are incredibly average. Each team has shown potentially fatal flaws, including the (barely) front-running Steelers.
Speaking of which, the Steelers can’t afford to lose any ground in the AFC North divisional race, let alone the AFC at large. Given the parity-driven, watered-down nature of the league, there’s going to be host of mediocre teams fighting for limited playoff slots come season’s end, and it’s entirely possible that tiebreakers will come into play to determine seat-fillers. That begins with winning divisional games.
Speaking of which, for the Ravens and Steelers, who face off in Baltimore this Sunday, coming off an early bye doesn’t really favor either team. Sure, their respective injury cases are potentially one week closer to returning. They have had time to develop and refine their game plans (in the case of the Ravens, developing an offense would be more accurate). And players have had a little more practice time to address any fixable issues. But a bye week is often cited as a reason one team may be more rested or effective…or not. Clearly, it’s a wash for both teams this week.
Speaking of which, the Bengals and Washington team were clearly suffering from a time zone adjustment during their game in London last week, as both teams seemed to run out of energy and motivation in the fourth quarter and subsequent overtime. It’s becoming obvious to many that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s push to expand the league internationally will have more serious consequences for the players and the product on the field, which is already suffering a marked lack of viewership.
Speaking of which, the NFL’s rating have probably cratered, as it’s no longer early in the season, and each game now carries added postseason significance. It’s also notable that the presidential election and World Series will be over soon, which will contribute TV conflict-starved viewers in need of something new to criticize and argue about. Interest in the NFL will never be entirely doomed as long as the game exists and age-old competitions remain.
Speaking of which, the Ravens and Steelers matchup has been curiously thin on bulletin board material. This writer misses the days of blatant cheap shots in the media and on the field, of vitriol and hatred, of extreme violence, of denouncing everything the other side stands for. No, this isn’t about the election. I’m talking about the Ravens and Steelers. For election coverage, please visit whichever website supports your point of view.
Speaking of which, it’s interesting to note the differing tones football media types use to describe the Browns. A few doozies: “star-crossed”, “ill-fated”, “pragmatic”, “unique”, “cursed” and “perennially damaged”. Perspectives on this team are all over the map, as several pubs still hold that they expected a bad team, but not this bad. Others preach patience and discuss looking at individual performances and growth as opposed to a team view. Some simply decry them as just being irretrievably awful. It’s a terrible fate for any team to be mentioned in the same vein as the 2008 Detroit Lions, but a winless season is starting to be a real possibility in Cleveland.
Speaking of which, the city of Cleveland may well be title holders in two sports in about 12 hours, so it’s tough to muster much sympathy for their fans right now. Win or lose tonight, Clevelanders, y’all have had a good, potentially great year. Enjoy it.