Week 16 Review — Roethlisberger and Steelers Blow Their Chance

Posted: 01/02/2016 by levcohen in Football

Heading into week 16, I thought there was a great chance that all 12 playoff spots would be decided before the final week. Thanks to a Redskins victory over the Eagles and a Texans win over the Colts, I was almost right. Washington is the NFC East winner and owner of the fourth seed, while Houston will win the AFC South barring a miraculous nine team parlay that would give the Colts the division title by virtue of a superior strength of victory. But the Steelers didn’t do their part. After defeating the Bengals and Broncos in consecutive weeks, Pittsburgh couldn’t get past the lowly Ravens, who have lost most of their offense along with key defender Terrelle Suggs to injuries. Why did the Steelers lose to a team with so much less talent? Well, there’s speculation that the Ravens might have been especially excited for a rivalry game. But I don’t buy that rationale, as most of the players on these teams weren’t even in the NFL during the heyday of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry. This loss, instead, shows a weakness that the Steelers have had throughout the Mike Tomlin Era- an inability to avoid letdowns at inopportune moments. Would you have expected a team with the most talented offense in the NFL to lose to Ryan Mallett, a guy starting for his second team of the season? I didn’t expect it, as evidenced by the fact that I locked this game up last season. But regardless of the reason why, the Steelers lost, and the Jets beat the Patriots, which means that Pittsburgh needs a win and a New York loss to sneak into the playoffs. That’s a thought that AFC playoff teams must relish, because, when they are clicking, the Steelers might just be the best team in the conference. Anyway, here are my thoughts on some of the week 16 performances from teams that have already locked up playoff spots.

  • The Patriots lost to the Jets, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. In fact, I think that the long-term fallout from this loss will be positive for two reasons. First, it forces the Pats to play Tom Brady and the rest of their healthy starters for at least part of their game against the Dolphins in order to win the game and lock up the top seed. I think that’s a good thing, as resting players in week 17 hasn’t proven to be beneficial to playoff teams who have a first round BYE anyway. Second, it makes it more likely that New England will avoid playing the Steelers, a team that would likely cause them fits, in the playoffs. Given that the Dolphins are terrible, the Patriots will probably win tomorrow and clinch home field despite their loss. And even if they don’t, they’ll still have a first round BYE and with it a chance for a bunch of their top players, from Sebastian Vollmer to Julian Edelman to Chandler Jones safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty. So loss aside, the Patriots are still the strong favorites to return to the Super Bowl.
  • The Panthers lost in Atlanta, but the loss – Carolina’s first of the season – doesn’t really change their outlook going forward, at least in my mind. Before the game, I thought the Panthers were the second or third best team in the conference, a squad with a good chance of going all the way but also a team with some big flaws. After the loss… I think pretty much the same thing. The Cardinals are better and the Seahawks might be better, but the Panthers are pretty darn good. And for those people who say that this loss shows that the recipe to beat the Panthers (“shutting down Cam Newton”) is now clear, my response is: well, duh. If you shut down the quarterback, you win the game. It just won’t be easy.
  • Speaking of the Cardinals, I know more people have started to drink the Kool Aid after another huge victory, this one a comprehensive destruction of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but I’ve felt for a while that, if Carson Palmer stays healthy, they’re Super Bowl favorites. The offense is really dynamic, with three explosive receivers and a terrifyingly good rookie running back in David Johnson. And the defense, even without the Honey Badger, showed what it’s got in its 38-8 win over the Packers. They’ve forced the second most turnovers in the NFL, behind only Carolina. Next up is a game against Seattle and, if the Panthers lose their second consecutive game, a chance to steal the top seed in the NFC.
  • The Vikings had another big offensive game last week, but they still haven’t shown that they can do enough offensively against the best teams in the league. I have no doubt that they could beat the Packers, whether it’s this week or next, when they might match up again. But is it possible that Minnesota and Green Bay are the two worst playoff teams in the conference? Worse, even, than the Redskins? I still think both are better than Washington, but it hasn’t looked like it recently. Anyway, I’m skeptical that either of the NFC North playoff-bound teams can make it past round two when matched up against Carolina or Arizona.
  • Denver’s win over Cincinnati in a game between two teams with backup quarterbacks playing, showed how similar these two teams really are. They both show spurts of quality offense but rely heavily upon their strong defenses. And while the Broncos have the better overall defense, the Bengals have the bonus of knowing for sure that they’ll be better off when their starter, Andy Dalton, returns. As for the Broncos, they’ll probably be starting Brock Oswiler for the remainder of their season, simply because he’s better than Peyton Manning at this point. Anyway, these are two really odd playoff-bound teams in the AFC. Can either upset the Patriots? Well, Denver’s already beaten New England with Oswiler at quarterback, while the Bengals can beat anyone as long as they get Dalton back. The AFC playoffs are far from settled.

11-5 straight up… 140-86
9-7 against the spread… 109-106-11
7-7-2 over/under… 117-103-8

Upset picks:
3-1… 27-32

Lock of the Week:
0-1… 12-4

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