Feb. 26, 2019
Who Fed It And Who Ate It: Week 11
The weather is getting colder, but the NFL is just getting warmed up. Today, we'll be looking at a couple teams that are in position to make some noise this year and we'll also cover a couple teams that made hay last year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have reeled off a six game win streak in a come from behind win... This has been a roller coaster season for the Steelers in 2018. When running back Le'Veon Bell opted to hold out for a long term lucrative contract, it left the team without one of its most dynamic playmakers. So Pittsburgh responded how they normally do; brought in the next man up, which was second year rusher James Conner. And how has he responded? By putting himself among the league's best in scrimmage yards all the while putting up numbers comparable to the departed Bell. The Steelers opened 2018 painfully slow, as they would end September with an 1-2-1 record. Now, as the Steel City Stalwarts have not lost in over a month, they lead the AFC North with a 7-2-1 record and in the driver's seat for a first round playoff bye. Their offense is still one of more dangerous units in the league. Along with Conner as a dual contributor, the wide receiving duo of Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster are constant game breaking threats that must be accounted for on virtually every play. And QB Ben Roethlisberger, the veteran presence who facilitates the offense, may not be as elusive as he was earlier in his career, but is as skilled a passer as the game has right now. If the Steelers continue this type of play, they will be playing for the right to play in Super Bowl LIII.
... over the Jacksonville Jaguars, who squandered a 14 point forth quarter lead in a 23-19 defeat that extended their current losing streak to six. Last year, the Jaguars made life miserable for the Steelers in general and Roethlisberger in particular as Jacksonville's defense picked him clean to the tune of 5 interceptions in a 30-9 result, then won in a shootout in the AFC Divisional Playoffs. But this year, Roethlisberger would have another multiple pick game and these Jaguars would not make the Steelers pay for those giveaways. It goes to show the importance of momentum. The Jaguars of 2017 had plenty of it, and were essentially one quarter from a Super Bowl berth. The 2018 version are on the opposite side of it and find themselves in the AFC South cellar with the season all but lost. In light of all this, this could be a overall positive for this franchise. Don't forget, executive vice president Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone are in their second year together. There's no need to tear the roster apart, nor throw the coach or general manager in the proverbial fire. This setback will only help to hone the roster for a bounce back season in 2019. How the Jags finish may glean some insight into what to expect next fall.
The Ass Kicking of the Week was (once again) delivered by the New Orleans Saints, with the Philadelphia Eagles as their most recent victim in their historic 48-7 beating of the defending Super Bowl champions. Not much else to say about the Saints except it appears that the only ones who could beat New Orleans is themselves. They are the top contenders in the NFC until further notice. That leaves the vanquished Eagles, who set a undesired mark on this day. The 41 point defeat was the worst loss incurred by a defending Super Bowl champion. The reasons for their fall from grace are several. Injuries have leveled their secondary and offensive backfield. Their losses due to free agency and salary cap management took away key contributors from last year. And while few wish to admit it, no one is taking the Eagles lightly. Philly is getting everybody's best shot week in and week out. They find themselves at 4-6, amazingly only 2 games behind division leading Washington in the NFC East, so all is not lost. But the Eagles will need to finish strong if they want to put up a true title defense. Can they? Absolutely. Will they? Only time will tell.
Speaking of the NFC East, the complexion of that division may have quickly changed thanks to the season ending broken leg suffered by Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith. The Redskins have been a surprise this year in leading a weaker than advertised NFC East. All that might have just changed after Smith suffered a gruesome injury that ends his 2018 season, as the break of both his tibia and fibula required immediate surgery. In Smith's place is long time backup Colt McCoy. While the Redskins organization has been high on McCoy, he has not started a game in two years and he will be tasked with bringing the Burgundy and Gold to a playoff berth to finish the job Smith started. Whoever can pick up momentum in the NFC East the fastest can carry themselves all the way to a home playoff game. The question is who will do it? And who are you betting on; McCoy, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, or Eli Manning?