The surest road to the playoffs is winning your division. Those September swoons only matter if there is a December deficit. The Steelers surely don't want the division title riding on a late season game in Tampa Bay, two days before Christmas. With the Steelers and Browns done playing on November 3rd, fans of both teams will be doing a whole lot of scoreboard watching."> The surest road to the playoffs is winning your division. Those September swoons only matter if there is a December deficit. The Steelers surely don't want the division title riding on a late season game in Tampa Bay, two days before Christmas. With the Steelers and Browns done playing on November 3rd, fans of both teams will be doing a whole lot of scoreboard watching.">

Looking Down the Barrel of a 14-Game Season

<p style="margin-left: 3; margin-right: 3"> <font face="Arial" size="2" color="#000000">The surest road to the playoffs is winning your division. Those September swoons only matter if there is a December deficit. The Steelers surely don't want the division title riding on a late season game in Tampa Bay, two days before Christmas. With the Steelers and Browns done playing on November 3rd, fans of both teams will be doing a whole lot of scoreboard watching.<o:p>

With realignment, head-to-head divisional match-ups have been de-emphasized.  The Steelers used to play 10 divisional games during a season and now only face six.  Conceivably, the Browns could sweep divisional play with the Steelers losing all six, and Pittsburgh could still win the division with an 8-8 record.

What becomes more important is how each team in the AFC North fares against the slew of common opponents.  There are eight such games: Tennessee, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Atlanta, Carolina, and Houston.  Cleveland and Pittsburgh essentially have the same schedule, save two games.  The Steelers have already lost their two (New England and Oakland) while the Browns already lost one (KC), with a game at New York against the Jets standing between Cleveland and their last game against the Steelers.

So, for all your fretting about the Titans, Colts, Saints, and Bucs, realize that Browns fans share your concern.  A late season game in Tampa may look formidable right now, but the Browns must make the same trip on October 13th.  Both the Browns and the Steelers must travel the same rough road and all that starts this Sunday in Nashville.

You might be eyeing that Saints-Bears match up during the early games this Sunday, but Browns-Titans is of much more importance.  Seem like a slow week thanks to the Steeler bye?  You might find the news of RB Eddie George and QB Steve McNair missing practice due to injuries of the utmost concern.  An entire season could turn on the mere difference of the Browns facing a banged up Titans team and the Steelers facing a healthy one (Tennessee has until November 17th to get better).

Should the Browns come up short this Sunday, the Steelers could win their next home game against Cleveland and never look back.  A 14-game season never looked so sweet.

* For those of you wondering about those other two teams in the North… The Ravens have blown two of the games against common opponents.  So, Baltimore is already in a big hole.  They could climb out of it by beating the Dolphins and Broncos (and you thought the Patriots and Raiders were a bad draw).  The Bengals start this Sunday at Atlanta.  A loss against the Falcons could be redeemed by a win in Buffalo, their very last game of the season.  Of course, an 0-3 start with the following three games against the Bucs, Colts, and Steelers might end all hope right there.  I'd call it a Week 3 AFC North divisional lynchpin.  There is plenty at stake for the Steelers this weekend.

 

--Dirtwinston

 

 


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