Wednesday Apple Pie

Just three weeks ago, the idiots on ESPN's Around the Horn and Cold Pizza were practically chiseling the Pittsburgh Steelers onto the Lombardi Trophy. And, just as I had warned, these same loudmouths are jumping off the wagon quicker than you can say "Big Ben." My question is: Who cares?

The last time I checked, no Super Bowl has ever been won by one of the bandwagon teams. In fact since 1994, the trend follows non-bandwagon AFC teams making it to a Super Bowl. Except for perhaps last year and '98 and maybe 2002, if you consider that Oakland was the bandwagon team when the playoffs started, the media favorite entering the playoffs failed to reach the Super Bowl.

My definition of a bandwagon team is one that is the media favorite to represent a conference in the Super Bowl at the end of regular season.

AFC Bandwagon teams
1994 - Pittsburgh (Eliminated in Championship Game)
1995 - Kansas City (Eliminated in Divisional Playoffs)
1996 - Denver (Eliminated in Divisional Playoffs)
1997 - Kansas City (Eliminated in Divisional Playoffs)
1998 - Denver (Won Super Bowl)
1999 - Jacksonville (Eliminated in Championship Game)
2000 - Tennessee (Eliminated in Divisional Playoffs) 2001 - Pittsburgh (Eliminated in Championship Game)
2002 - Oakland (Lost Super Bowl)
2003 - New England (Won Super Bowl)
2004 - New England (???????)

In the NFC, it's been different until just recently
1994 – San Francisco (Won Super Bowl)
1995 – Dallas (Won Super Bowl)
1996 – Green Bay (Won Super Bowl)
1997 – Green Bay (Lost Super Bowl)
1998 – Minnesota (Eliminated in Championship Game)
1999 – St. Louis (Won Super Bowl)
2000 – NY Giants (Lost Super Bowl)
2001 – St. Louis (Lost Super Bowl)
2002 – Philadelphia (Eliminated in Championship Game)
2003 – Philadelphia (Eliminated in Championship Game)
2004 – Philadelphia (??????)

Looking at the facts, the AFC bandwagon team in the last ten years reached the Super Bowl only three times. The NFC bandwagon team in that same span reached the Super Bowl seven times.

So, not to worry Steeler fans. There are four legitimate title contenders in the AFC and the Steelers are one of them. And the feeling here is that the team that most media consider to be the favorite won't sniff the big game.

Apple Six-Pack Recap

1. New England 24 Baltimore 3 – The Ravens are just the most recent team to fall into the Patriot trap. The Pats have a habit of turning tight games into blowouts in the 4th quarter. The Ravens played without Jamal Lewis, without Todd Heap and without a quality wide receiver. They could muster only 3 points against the Patriots, which should come to the surprise of no one. It's quite obvious that Baltimore does not belong among the top tier teams of the AFC, but they definitely look like a wild-card problem.

2. Green Bay 48 St. Louis 17 – So now there are three teams that are capable of getting to the Super Bowl in the NFC. The Packers, on the heels of demolishing the embarrassing Rams, have a legendary quarterback, solid receivers, strong running game and an opportunistic defense. Sounds like all the right ingredients to me.

3. Philadelphia 24 NY Giants 6 – The leading receiver the past two weeks for the Eagles has not been Terrell Owens. Yes, T.O. has gotten a few catches, but he's also been dropping a lot more of them than usual. Todd Pinkston picked up the slack again and Brian Westbrook had his best game since the early weeks of the season. When a veteran proven quarterback pulls an undertalented team to 5 - 3 after eight games there is no reason to pull him. But, that's just what Tom Coughlin did. In fact, Coughlin caved rather easily to the New York media machine.

4. Minnesota 27 Jacksonville 16 – And finally, a little respectability comes back to the NFC as the Vikings beat an AFC team with a winning record. It took a late 4th quarter fumble by Byron Leftwich to seal the game for the Vikings, who were in serious danger of blowing this game at home. On a side note, doesn't Byron Leftwich look remarkably like the kid playing Fat Albert in the upcoming live-action movie?

5. Indianapolis 41 Detroit 9 – The remarkable thing about this game was the fact that the Lions were in this game until two costly fumbles in the first half. The crowd was into it, they had just stopped the Colts offense twice and the Lions offense had driven into field goal range 3 straight drives. But, Tony Dungy apparently thought that 34 - 9 was too close of a margin so he sent Peyton Manning out again and this time Peyton would surely let Edge James control the game on the ground and give him an opportunity to score a touchdown, right? Wrong. There really is something not right about what Manning is doing. And when he loses in the playoffs, I'll be cheering.

6. San Diego 34 Kansas City 31 – Could the Chargers meet the Steelers in the AFC Championship game and win again? Not only could it happen, but here's betting real money that the only team the Steelers don't want to face are the Bolts. Why? Because their defense is better than the Colts and their offense is better than the Patriots. This is a scary, scary team.

Power Core Post Season Monitor

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

Holding their own destiny: Denver
Need help: Jacksonville, Houston, Cincinnati, Buffalo

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

Holding their own destiny: NY Giants
Need help: Detroit, Arizona, Chicago, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas

Apple Six-Pack

1. Green Bay Packers at Philadelphia Eagles (GOTW): This is the biggest game in the NFC this year. The Packers, with a strong showing, will surely fire a little fear into the hearts of the Eagles. Don't be surprised for a Packer upset in this game. The Eagles need a top-notch effort from T.O., something they haven't gotten in 2 weeks.

2. Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers: What is it about the Broncos on Sunday night football? They lost to the Colts and Dolphins on last second 50+ yard field goals in 2002. Both were games in which the Broncos defense let down the offense in the final seconds. But, the real key of this game was the superb effort from the Oakland Raiders defense. Except for a few hiccups, the Raiders defense stuffed Rueben Droughns when they needed to, which didn't allow the Broncos to run out the clock.

3. Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: This is a dangerous game for the Ravens. The Bengals offense is clicking and only Pittsburgh's defense has been able to stop it. The Ravens offense needs to look at what the Browns did and those areas of the Bengals defense that were exploited. If they can't do that, the Bengals will have a great shot to upset the Ravens.

4. Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts: With Steve McNair contemplating retirement, the Titans head into Indianapolis to take on the red-hot, disrespectful Colts. As anyone who has been reading these Pies for the last few weeks can tell, I've had a very low opinion of Peyton Manning's sportsmanship these past few weeks. While the Colts should win with ease, McNair should at least make the game closer than anyone in Indiana expects.

5. NY Giants at Washington Redskins: The Giants, on the heels of a 3-game losing streak, continue to be right in the thick of the playoff race. But, with Eli Manning going against a Redskin defense that gave Ben Roethlisberger fits, there is a strong chance of an upset in Washington. Just how many more of these losses the Giants can take is anyone's guess.

6. Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears: While the Packers have to travel to Philadelphia, the Vikings get the luxury of playing the Bears. Chicago amazingly is also still in the playoff race, or should I say pathetically still in the playoff race. The Bears are in a must-win situation and if they can knock off the Vikings, Minnesota all of the sudden will be in deep, deep trouble.

Seeds Of Wisdom From the Girl Apple

Apple: Jessica Simpson really sucks.

Girl Apple: You are always so critical of these singers.

Apple: Well she's butchering "What Child Is This". Besides, you should see how critical some of the posts on the message board at Steel City Sports are in regards to the Steelers season.

Girl Apple: But, aren't they 10 - 1 or something?

Apple: Yes.

Girl Apple: Then what's the problem?

Apple: Well, I guess they should be winning by more points over some of these inferior teams. It makes the team look weak.

Girl Apple: Well, as far as I'm concerned if they win that's all that should matter.

Apple: I guess you are right. But Jessica Simpson still sucks.

Girl Apple: Touche.

Apple's Fantasy Football Results

TheDallasCowboysSuck 82 (6 - 6) The Sweatin' Sopranos 169: Next Week vs. IPeeOnSteelers (2 - 10)
Another big day by Manning. Another win for the Sopranos.

The Woodside Geminis (9 - 2) Dogs Of War (Night): Next Week vs The Chaos Theory (4 - 7)
The rematch proved to be just as tight as the first week and the scores weren't in time for publication.

DCFB 89 (5 - 7) 69th St. Ruperts 94: Next Week vs. Spider's Spiders (8 - 4)
The game came down to Brett Favre vs. Mark Bulger. I led by 5 points, but Bulger's 400 yards trumped Farve's efficient day.

Steel City Insider Top Stories