Wednesday Apple Pie

I'm not saying this means anything, but the Pittsburgh Steelers seem to win quite consistently with Phil Simms in the booth. In fact, I would call Simms the Steelers' Lucky Charm.

Back in 1995, NBC's number one team of Dick Enberg, Paul Maguire and Phil Simms manned the booth for a Steeler contest 5 times during the regular season (at Chicago, at Cleveland with Marv Albert subbing for Enberg, at Los Angeles, San Diego, at Cincinnati). That season, the Steelers went 5 – 0 with Simms. Not bad. Maybe a coincidence. They went 1 – 1 in the playoffs, with the loss being the Super Bowl. So 6 - 1 is pretty impressive, but the Steelers were a pretty darn good team.

Could the trend continue? Doesn't seem likely, does it?

The Steelers would win their only visit from Simms in 1996 in a wild-card playoff victory over Indianapolis. They would now be 7 - 1.

In 1997, Simms manned a Steeler game again 3 times in the regular season with the Steelers winning all three of those contests (Denver, at New England, Jacksonville). The Steelers would lose the AFC Championship game to bring the season record to 4 – 1.

That's an improbable 11 – 2 with Simms in the booth.

Sure, Simms couldn't control the referees or the Steelers would have made it 12 - 2 in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. But alas, with Greg Gumbel draining the life out of him, Simms didn't have the power to stop Phil Un-Luckett as the officiating crew handed the Steelers their 3rd loss.

Fast forward to 2000 and the Curse of Gumble continues to battle the Lucky Charm as the Steelers lose their only visit from Simms to the NY Giants. In 2001, the Steelers go 1 – 1, beating the Jets at home but losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. In 2002 the Steelers beat Cleveland in the playoffs and in 2003 they would lose at Denver.

That's now 12 – 5 for the Steelers under the watchful eye of Phil Simms.

Then this off-season in a surprise move, CBS sent Gumble back to the studio and ushered in Jim Nantz to the booth. You could almost feel the shifting of the winds. It seemed like destiny that the Lucky Charm would work opening day in Heinz Field, and he did not disappoint.

The Charm is indeed back in full power after calling three wins for the Steelers and is set to call both the Jets and Giants contests (barring a late change). With wins in both contests, the Steelers would go 18 – 6 over Simms' nine-year career, a winning percentage of .750. And do you know what happened the last time the Steelers went 5 - 0 with Simms during the regular season? You can make your reservations for Jacksonville.

But, in all honesty, can Simms be reasonably called the Lucky Charm? Perhaps. Perhaps not. However, I for one am much more confident when he is in the booth calling Steeler games.

Apple Six-Pack Recap

1. New England 40 St. Louis 22 – Two weeks ago, the Rams had a one game lead over the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West division. Two weeks later, the Rams are now one game behind. It proves two things: Mike Martz is a horrible football coach and the Rams won't make the playoffs. That's right the Rams will not make the playoffs. They've now lost two winnable contests with Miami and now the Patriots. I don't know how a team cannot beat a squad that runs a linebacker on an out-pattern, lets its field goal kicker become a quarterback and throws a wide receiver in the secondary unit.

2. Indianapolis 31 Minnesota 28 – You know if Dante Culpepper would have gotten the ball one more time, the Vikings would have won the game. The Colts survived only because of Minnesota's first quarter ineptitude. I also have grown to hate Peyton Manning's continuous audible calls. I sometimes think it confuses his offensive line as they were called for about five false start penalties.

3. Baltimore 27 Cleveland 13 – One of the more insane threads has appeared over at the Baltimore Raven's Scout site. It involves an actual debate on whether Kyle Boller is better than Ben Rothlisberger. Usually when fans are this dumb their team is just as dumb, but the Ravens are a smart team defensively. They seem to never fall for play-action and always have multiple players around the ball. The Browns on the other hand are done. Regardless of the fact that Ray Lewis interfered on the final play and that Kyle Boller can't get his team into the end-zone, the Browns can't turn the ball over that many times and expect to win.

4. Denver 31 Houston 13 – There is now a group of teams in the AFC that are having trouble putting long win streaks together. They play great one week and then flat the next. Such is life for Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Baltimore and the Jets. These are the seven teams that will be battling for three playoff spots: two wild-cards and the AFC South title. Guess which conference is deeper.

5. Washington 17 Detroit 10 – There is now a group of teams in the NFC that are having trouble putting long win streaks together. They play great one week and then flat the next. Such is life for Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, Seattle, St. Louis and the Giants. These are the six teams that will be battling for four playoff spots: two wild-cards, the NFC North title and the NFC West title. Guess which conference is deeper.

6. Tampa Bay 34 Kansas City 31 – If you read the Denver/Houston recap, you see that I don't include the Bucs on that list. They're too far out to have a shot at the NFC South title and I just don't think they'll have enough in the tank to catch up to the rest of playoff hopefuls, but boy did they do San Diego and Denver a favor in knocking off the Chiefs.

Power Core Post-season Monitor

AFC - Current Seeding
1. Pittsburgh
2. New England
3. Denver
4. Indianapolis
WC1: NY Jets
WC2: San Diego

Holding their own destiny: Baltimore, Jacksonville
Need help: Houston, Cleveland, Tennessee, Kansas City

NFC - Current Seeding
1. Philadelphia
2. Atlanta
3. Seattle
4. Minnesota
5. NY Giants
6. St. Louis

Holding their own destiny: Green Bay
Need help: Detroit, Tampa Bay

Apple Six-Pack

1. Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (GOTW) – If the Vikings could have just gotten the ball back they probably would have beaten the Colts. The Packers have been playing much better on defense and Ahman Green has been holding onto the ball, but this game is what will determine if the Pack can hold their own destiny. With a win they'll have the inside track to the division. With the loss, they'll have to hope St. Louis or the Giants fall big time.

2. Baltimore Ravens at New York JetsBig game with tiebreaker implications. I've been saying this now for a few weeks, the Ravens can't afford to fall three games behind the Steelers. This is a game they must win, and on the other side the Jets need to keep pace with the Patriots. This game will come down to whether Curtis Martin can find room. The offensive line for the Jets has struggled (sans the Miami game) getting holes open for Martin. It may not matter though with Chad Pennington out for 2 to 4 weeks.

3. Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams The Rams are once again faced with a do or die game. This time, I don't think the Seahawks will blow a late lead. With a win here the Hawks will firmly grasp the division and the Rams will slowly begin their fall out of the playoff race.

4. Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts The Colts survived at home on Monday night but now must contend with an up-and-coming Texan squad. Monday night winners are only 1 - 7 the following week. The Texans must win to keep pace in a very competitive wild-card race.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons The only reason I have this game here is that the fate of Tampa's season comes down to this game. A win gives them hope. A loss and the season is officially over.

6. Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys The only reason I have this game here is that the fate of Dallas' season comes down to this game. A win gives them hope. A loss and the season is officially over. You see a trend here?

Seeds Of Wisdom From the Girl Apple

Girl Apple: So your Steelers are doing pretty well, huh?

Apple: Yes! They are going to the Super Bowl.

Girl Apple: Isn't the Super Bowl in January?

Apple: Yes, but that's not your wisdom is it? To keep things in perspective?

Girl Apple: Nope. Are there any other teams doing this well?

Apple: Well some teams are hot like San Diego.

Girl Apple: Why aren't they going to the Super Bowl?

Apple: Because. Well. Because. Look, we are the best team in the NFL right now.

Girl Apple: Right now?

Apple: We are the best team in the NFL, period.

Girl Apple: That's better. That's my wisdom.

Apple: What, ride this thing? Believe?

Girl Apple: Yes. Believe.

Apple's Fantasy Football Results

TheDallasCowboysSuck 164 (4 - 5) Sweatin' Sopranos 165: Next Week vs. IPeeOnSteelers (1 - 8)
The Monday night game killed me. 2 less by Manning and I would have won.

The Woodside Geminis 17 (8 - 1) The Lemmiwinks Life 25: Next Week vs TBA
The streak is over, but I had a three-game lead over the Tony Danza Bunch for division honors and a first round bye. I still also have a one game lead for top seed in the playoffs. Pittsburgh's defense killed me by shutting down TO and McNabb while the Ravens defense shut down Garcia. I'll take a loss like this though any week rather than have all my players produce and still fall short.

DCFB 105 (3 - 6) The CCSC 86: Next Week vs. Patsies (5 - 4)
Big Ben, the Steeler defense and the A-train came through as I keep my hope alive for a late season charge.

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