So instead let’s have a look at how things are going in the glorious AFC North.
Tag Archives: Joe Flacco
Photo via Steelers.com
I’m always very conflicted about Steelers-Ravens. Part of me looks forward to what often proves to be a true test of a given Steelers club. This is irrespective of whether the current iteration of the Ravens is a good team or a bad one. (See the embarrassment in Baltimore to a bad team quarterbacked by Ryan Mallett.)
But, as several people just on this site have noted, it’s pretty difficult at this point in the season to make any sort of determination as to what sort of team the Steelers are this year. (Or, I suppose, the Ravens, although they’ve been faintly more consistent.) We are all still trying to get a handle on what’s going on, just here in Pittsburgh.
It always seems to come down to this, doesn’t it? Last year’s contest in December was a notable exception, and perhaps that is why it was such a weird game—it’s so unusual for so little to be riding on the final Steelers/Ravens game.
That would be “quarter” as in “quarter of the season.” Ivan Cole did a well-researched and thoughtful series last week about how the Steelers are doing so far. But as we fans know, speculation is more fun than research, although a little bit may be involved.
The schedule for the remaining three games is:
- Week 6—Steelers at Dolphins
- Week 7—Patriots at Steelers
- Week 8—Bye
- Week 9—Steelers at Ravens
In Part 1 we looked at the Carolina Panthers, who had the worst record in the league in 2010 and went to the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. I’m not whether the Panthers ownership would have called it a reboot, but it certainly had many of the elements, at least, of one: new coaching staff, and [eventually] a new general manager, high draft picks for a few years, cutting and/or letting walk in free agency over half of the roster.
Compare this to the Steelers—no change in head coach or general manager, minimal (and incremental) changes to the remainder of the coaching staff, a slow, steady divesture of the older veterans, and a good enough record during the process to never get a higher draft pick than No. 15 (and mostly lower.)
Today’s comparison is to the Baltimore Ravens, a traditional, bitter rival, and a team whose front office, and particularly their GM, Ozzie Newsome, is very highly regarded throughout the league. Read more
After the previous Sunday’s glorious victory over the Patriots, Steelers fans were ready to see the Ravens crushed as some sort of payback for the season-opening debacle. But alas, it was not to be.
As Hombre de Acero wrote on that dreary day in early November of 2011:
A week ago the Steelers had pole position on an AFC first round bye and at least one guaranteed home playoff game at Heinz Field Now tie breakers place them third in the AFC North. Does anyone require more proof that the NFL really stands for “Not For Long?” The upside is that the Ravens sweep gives us plenty to talk about.
After taking its own bye week, Stats ‘N At is back! It will be even longer than usual, since there is a lot of ground to cover, so get yourself another cup of coffee and something nice to go with it and let’s look at the AFC North picture.
First, a quick review of the two AFC North games for Week 11. The AFC North was .500 that week. If you had to guess which team would win and which would lose I’m assuming you would go with a Bengals win and a Ravens loss, but of course that’s not how it came out, in terms of the record at least. You can argue the Ravens actually lost big time, as they lost their No. 1 running back, Justin Forsett, and their apparently indestructible QB, Joe Flacco, during the course of a game in which they scratched out a 16-13 win.
I wrote an article for Steelers Wire expressing my belief that this was fortuitous. Apparently the Ravens’ brain trust didn’t read it, because the Ravens beat the Browns this week. Well, I’m not going to weep for them losing out on a top-five draft pick, that’s for sure!
The Bengals, on the other hand, lost to the Cardinals, making the Steelers the only AFC North team to beat Bruce Arians’ squad this season. Admittedly the Bengals played them in Arizona, the Steelers at home, but the Steelers were playing Landry Jones at quarterback and the Steelers defense held the Cardinals to 13 points. The closest any other team has come are the Rams, Destroyer of Quarterbacks, (or at least some important bits of them,) who held them to 22 points. That’s something with which to comfort ourselves on a dreary December day after the Seahawks touched the Steelers D up for 39 points. But I digress.
Week 10 in the AFC North began with a couple of wild games in the 1:00 pm time slot. Jacksonville beat the Ravens in Baltimore, snapping a 13-game road losing streak. They wouldn’t have been able to do it except for a couple of things.
Joe Flacco threw two interceptions and choked up a fumble. A wide receiver I’ve never heard up gave up another one. Both were lost. Despite this, the Ravens were poised to win the game. The score was 20-19. There were six seconds left in the game. Jacksonville was out of time outs.
Blake Bortles took the snap and promptly fell over backwards. That would have been it, except Elvis Dumervil grabbed Bortle’s facemask as he attempted to get back up, and was called for a 15-yard penalty. Since a game can’t end on a defensive penalty, the extra play plus the penalty yardage allowed the Jaguars’ rookie kicker to try for a 53-yard field goal. He nailed it. Jaguars win, 22-20. Unbelievable. All I can say is the Jaguars probably feel right now that the Josh Scobee trade was the smartest one ever made by any front office, anywhere… (For the record, the NFL now says the Jaguars never should have gotten the extra play because of an uncalled false start penalty, so the Ravens should have won. Their luck seems to have run out this season.)
Next up was Browns at Steelers. We all know how that came out. Our backup quarterback broke records, but didn’t break anything else, contrary to the usual storyline this season. The Steelers head into their bye week in much better shape than they ought to be by rights, considering the circumstances. The Browns also head into their bye week, probably wondering who their coaching staff will consist of after it is over. (For the record, owner Jimmie Haslam says he won’t be making any changes at this point.)
I suppose I ought to try to be more neutral, but I can’t. I have to report it gave me great pleasure to type that “1” in the Bengals’ win/loss column. Probably more pleasure than the people watching the game had on Monday night. I was checking on it from time to time on NFL Game Center, and it seemed as if the game must have been about as much fun as watching paint dry while undergoing a root canal. Did it set an NFL record for number of punts? Not impressive.
As a Steelers homer I like to think this represents the beginning of the end for Cincinnati this season, but I expect it actually represents just one of those games which even the really good teams have on occasion. From the looks of things the Bengals ought to be pretty tired when they head to Arizona for Sunday’s match. We can always hope…
Week 9 began with a fairly predictable result for the only AFC North tilt. After managing to end the half with a deficit of only four points, the Browns were held to 32 yards of offense in the second half. Cincinnati is 8-0 for the first time in franchise history. Cleveland is 2-7 for the fourth time in franchise history.
Looking this up made me realize all the more how pathetic we Steeler fans can be. Only twice in franchise history (i.e. since 1999) have the Browns actually had a winning record after nine games. The most frequent record was 3-6 (seven of the prior 16 years have begun this way.)
One of those 2-7 years was 2008. The Steelers won the Super Bowl. The Browns were shut out their last two games of the season, losing 14-0 to the Bengals and 31-0 to the Steelers.
And those two years with winning records? In 2001 they began 5-4 and only won two other games. Last season they began 6-3 and won a single additional game. The Browns have made it to the playoffs only once, in 2002, where they lost to the Steelers.
I say this not to denigrate the Browns but to make the rest of us count our blessings. All too many Steeler fans, without considering any of the circumstances, whine as if Mike Tomlin had personally adulterated their breakfast cereal when the team goes less than 10-6 (the number I think is probably the minimum number of wins to which people feel entitled) and/or misses the playoffs.
The Ravens had their bye week, leading to the excitement (for Ravens fans) of finally moving above the Browns in the division race. Perhaps they should try not playing more often. And the Steelers won another last-minute thriller versus the Oakland Raiders, with the usual large number of body bags being required for the wounded. Unfortunately for the Steelers, one of the wounded was Ben Roethlisberger. But if an injury could be said to be fortunate, it would be this one, as the 2015 Steelers seemingly have dodged another bullet. Like Charles Woodson last Sunday, it was only a flesh wound.
- Bengals +87
- Steelers +24
- Ravens -24
- Browns -70
The Bengals’ point differential is getting ridiculous. The Steelers are the only team to hold them to under 27 points. Well done them, even if it doesn’t make me, as a Steelers homer, particularly happy. Read more
Since the Bengals are carrying all before them, I thought we would just admit defeat and make it all about them. Here’s the AFC North record, which doesn’t look nearly as nice this week, alas. The Steelers lost ground on the Bengals, although the Browns have thoughtfully continued to lose. Maybe we don’t have to worry about the Ravens getting the No. 1 pick after all.
- Bengals +66
- Steelers +21
- Ravens -34
- Browns -49