Wednesday Apple Pie

The next four games the Steelers play will go a long way towards whether this season's team will have any shot at playing football into January. The same can be said for the other two contenders in the AFC North: Baltimore and Cleveland.

The Steelers hold a divisional record edge over both teams. The Steelers finished their first half of divisional play with a 2 –1 record, while the Browns and Ravens both finished 1 - 2. Last week, the Browns and Ravens missed a golden opportunity to pull 2 games ahead of the Steelers, but with both teams losing, Pittsburgh finds itself with a golden opportunity to reclaim control of the AFC North within 4 weeks.

Looking at the schedules below, the Steelers have the easier schedule albeit by a minute proportion. The Steelers have an easily winnable contest at home against Arizona and also host St. Louis. While they'll visit San Francisco on Monday night, they've have had success there. The only truly worrisome game is at Seattle. The Steelers never play well in the state of Washington.

The Browns on the other hand get a bye week and the Cardinals at home, but in a cruel twist of fate, they also have to travel to New England and Kansas City, two of the hottest teams in the league. The Ravens have an even worse schedule. They play host to Denver, a Jacksonville team that plays better than theire record indicates, and travel to St. Louis and Miami.

If the Steelers can go 3 – 1 in the next 4 games they will be 5 – 5 with 6 games to go and the most brutal portion of their schedule behind them. They will also meet a Cleveland team that in all honesty should be 4 - 6 after going 1 – 2 in the 4 weeks. The Ravens on the other hand will be lucky to go 2 – 2, putting them at 6 – 4 but only a half game ahead of the Steelers due to tiebreakers.

Baltimore

Cleveland

Pittsburgh

Denver

@ New England

St. Louis

Jacksonville

Bye

@ Seattle

@ St. Louis

@ Kansas City

Arizona

@ Miami

Arizona

@ San Francisco

Brian Billick may be an egoist, but he may in fact have foretold the future this past off-season when he announced that the Steelers and Ravens would be playing for the AFC North title in the final game of the season. The scheduling and ebb and tide of these two teams points to a deciding battle on Sunday night in week 17. Let's just hope that Billick's second prediction of a Ravens win doesn't come true.

Apple Pix-Six: Week 7 Review

San Francisco 24 Tampa Bay 7: I don't get this Niner team. One week they get pasted by Miami and another week they defeat the defending champions in grand fashion. I also don't get this Bucs team. I just don't get either of them. I'm speechless. That's all I can say.

New England 19 Miami 13 (OT): Is it possible that Miami could miss two field goals and blow a coin-flip faux pas in their favor and still lose? Yes, it is Sparky. Yes it is.

Philadelphia 14 NY Giants 10: The NY Giants lost a game this season after kicking off with the lead with 14 seconds left in the game. The Giants special teams now lost another game by letting Brian Westbrook return a punt for 84 yards. Stick a fork in this division folks. It's a two-team race between Philly and Dallas from here on out.

Kansas City Oakland: The Giants seem to have many of the same problems that the Steelers have, immobile quarterback, touchdown deficiencies, and bad, bad luck.

Tennessee 37 Carolina 17: I'm not making a gut decision on this. If Steve McNair does not win a Super Bowl this year, I will be very surprised. The Titans are perhaps the only team that has the defense to counter Kansas City. They also have Steve McNair aka the new Bret Favre.

Minnesota 28 Denver 20: The Broncos are losing quarterbacks left and right and this time, it may be too much. The Broncos division championship hopes are seriously hindered now that they are down to their 3rd string quarterback Danny Kannel. Still, the defense will keep them in the hunt for a wildcard spot.

Apple Pix-Six

1. Miami at San Diego (GOTW): Okay, I know. This is another poor pick for a GOTW, but look I can't go changing my mind until week 13, so you got to live with it. The Chargers win a huge confidence game against the Browns. And believe me, the season isn't over if the Chargers can make a run. But, the real reason to watch is Ricky versus LaDanian. What a great battle it will be.

2. Buffalo at Kansas City: Kansas City looks like they will end the first half of the season undefeated. I just can't believe the Bills will have enough weapons to pull out the upset.

3. Cleveland at New England: For the first time in a long time, all Steeler fans will be rooting for the Patriots. The Browns are another enigma team. They look great against the Steelers but lose to the Bengals and Chargers? What?

4. Denver at Baltimore: And another game in which Steeler fans will be rooting for a team that ended a Super Bowl run. The Broncos are depleted and everyone remembers the Ray Lewis-pasting hit last year on Monday Night that began the Donkey spiral out of the playoff contention.

5. Dallas at Tampa Bay: Raise your hand if you thought Dallas would have a better record than Tampa. No one? Okay, better than St. Louis? Nope? Better than Pittsburgh? Better than Philadlephia?

6. NY Jets at Philadelphia: I put this game down because a Dallas loss and a Philadelphia win changes the complexion of the NFC East. Besides, for Philly to have a shot at the division this year, they must win this game.

The Complete Power Core Rankings: Week 8

  1. Kansas City – A little too close for comfort, huh Chiefs fans?
  2. Minnesota – Took care of a Bronco team that would have won with Jake Plummer
  3. Tennessee – Is there any quarterback better than McNair right now?
  4. Denver – They may start falling now that they're down to their last quarterback.
  5. Indianapolis – The Titans and Colts are going to make this a fun race to watch.
  6. New England – Big win from an overrated team.
  7. Seattle – The Seahawks will win the West even with that blowout loss to the Packers.
  8. Dallas – The Cowboys are winning games with confidence, now lets see what they do in Tampa.
  9. St. Louis – May just be the tonic an ailing Steeler team needs.
  10. Carolina – Those skid marks are from the Titans' bus that steamrolled through "tar-heel" land.
  11. Tampa Bay – The Bucs suddenly don't have a defensive presence.
  12. San Francisco – Niners get some payback for last January's blowout loss.
  13. Miami – And this is the pre-season Super Bowl favorite?
  14. Philadelphia – The Eagles will be lucky to keep up with the Cowboys at this rate.
  15. Green Bay – It's time to think about Wild Cards, Packer fans.
  16. Buffalo – Can the Bills stop the Chief winning streak? Probably not.
  17. Baltimore – Oh, what was that sound on Sunday…oh that's right…that's the sound of choking.
  18. Cleveland – I heard that sound again…yup…choking again.
  19. Pittsburgh – The Steelers have their best week of football in 5 weeks.
  20. Washington – Think about next year Skins fans.
  21. New Orleans – Brooks and Horn finally show up to play…too bad it's now 8 weeks into the season.
  22. NY Giants – Jim Fassel's days are numbered. Wonder if he'll make another profound statement like "we won't lose another game," or "Kerry Collins is overrated."
  23. Oakland – 1 yard might have turned their season around.
  24. Jacksonville – Wonder where Brunell will end up next year.
  25. Houston – The Texans should be playing better, right?
  26. NY Jets – The Jets win again! Here comes Gang Green. Well sort of…
  27. San Diego – Memo to Marty: Hand the ball off to LaDanian Tomlinson.
  28. Atlanta – The Falcons' season has been a qualified disaster.
  29. Cincinnati – I can't move them up very high because, well…it feels unnatural.
  30. Detroit – Got their butts handed to them in Big D.
  31. Chicago – Kordell got hurt. That might be the best news he's heard all year.
  32. Arizona – Only the Bengals have been a more embarrassing franchise in the last 5 years.

Fruits of Labor (stock is rising)

Rotten Produce (stock is falling)

Missed Point Opportunities (MPO)

No Game
Season MPO Record: 2 – 4

Wisdom From the Girl Apple

Girl Apple: It's just not fair. The bye week happens, but you're still not home because of rehearsals.

Apple: That's life, babe. Sorry.

Girl Apple: I can deal with it, but you just owe me big-time after the season.

Apple: Well, that will be college basketball's big time of the year…

Girl Apple: Don't press your luck. What's your question this week?

Apple: You have barely watched any of the games, but do you think the Steelers are smart in starting Jerome Bettis again?

Girl Apple: Isn't he The Bus?

Apple: Yes.

Girl Apple: Why?

Apple: Why what?

Girl Apple: Why's he called The Bus?

Apple: Because he plows through and over opposing tacklers, maybe not as well as he used to, but he still drags defenders down with him and can pick up the tough yards.

Girl Apple: So what's your question?

Apple: You're good. Damn good.

That's more wisdom from the Girl Apple.

Super-Fan Pappy Fried Chicken's Keys To The Game

Pappy was on vacation this week. He will return with more spit and vinegar next week.

Thoughts Assisted By Yuengling

  • If there is a Cowboy fan as happy as Cowboy Matt right now, I don't know who he or she may be, although my Uncle Bill is probably in his glory. Matt told me that the Cowboys offensive line is finally healthy. Imagine what this Steeler team could do with a healthy offensive line.
  • Steve McNair may be the best all-purpose quarterback in the NFL right now. He is the toughest, on the same level as a Bret Favre. But, for my money, I'd still take Peyton Manning in a heartbeat.
  • The winner of the AFC North will have at least 10 wins and I wouldn't be surprised if the divison also has a wild-card team. Remember, no one thought Cleveland had a shot at the playoffs last season at this time.
  • If Denver doesn't get their quarterback injuries rectified, they won't be playing football in January.
  • I could live with a Minnesota/Kansas City Super Bowl. That's a traditional match-up. And I like tradition.
  • How many games until Plaxico gets his second touchdown of the season? That's a question I never thought I'd be asking. Is it me, or has he taken a step backward this year?

Steel City Insider Top Stories