The Decline Of The Dynasties?

Are the Patriots and Steelers all done? Have these two dynasty-driven franchises headed back to the middle of the pack. It sure seems so.

Shocking losses by New England at Miami and Pittsburgh at home against Oakland last Sunday prompted FOX analyst Michael Strahan to say it felt like watching the decline of two dynasties.

And the fallout for the reeling teams has only continued as each prepares for a critical Week 14 game.

The Patriots have lost consecutive road games, and blowing a pair of double-digit leads in Miami brought the Dolphins right back into the division race. Quarterback tom Practice said, "at times I don't think we fight very hard."

He followed that up on his weekly radio show on Monday by telling WEEI that he believes the team needs to prepare better by putting more time and effort in during the week.

At least the Patriots continue to lead a relatively weak AFC East. The Steelers, meanwhile, are on the cusp of following up yet another Super Bowl title by missing the playoffs. At 6-6 they likely need to win out just to have a chance.

Pittsburgh has lost four consecutive games. Wide receiver Hines Ward spent much of last week apologizing after insinuating that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger perhaps should have played in Week 12 despite suffering a concussion the week before. This week, coach Mike Tomlin is threatening to start making changes to a starting lineup loaded with veterans.

"We can't continue to do what we've been doing and assume that that pattern of behavior is going to change and those outcomes are going to change," Tomlin said. "So we're analyzing all aspects of what we're doing here, specifically this week, and are going to be aggressive in terms of looking at potential changes in not only what we do schematically, but who we have do it in all three phases."

--Clinton Portis became the second starting running back in as many weeks to have his season end prematurely following a concussion. The Redskins' running back had already missed four games and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, following in the steps of Cleveland's Jamal Lewis last week. Lewis had previously said he was going to retire at the end of the season, and the 28-year-old Portis hinted he could be headed the same route.

"If it's my time, I think I had a great career," Portis said in his weekly radio show from Pittsburgh, where he was examined by neurologists. "I think I'll get well. I really have to put the time in for rehabbing and continuing to do what the doctor said. The doctor feared that if I took another hit like that, (my vision problems) would get worse. The position I got hit in was directly on my vision. He said it rattled the vision and that was his main concern."

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