Eye on the Enemy: Week 16

Ugh.  That was a disgustingly annoying week last week, at least as far as my ability to pick the rival's games go.  Yes the Bengals actually winning makes the taste slightly less bitter, but I was really looking forward to a Jets collapse that might knock them out of the playoffs entirely.  Not very likely anymore.  And of course, while I wouldn't mind the Ravens actually winning the division over the Steelers (especially since I'd be OK with a UFL team winning the division instead of the Steelers), I didn't want them to do it at the expense of the Saints (or my ability to pick these games right).

Two games wrong drops me to a very annoying 13-15 record.  And with only three games left on the year to pick, I'm going to have to get all three right to avoid a losing season.  Yuk!  Well, I'll try my best and see what happens.

Let's get started with the AFC North Snoozer of the Week.

Carolina Panthers @ Pittsburgh Steelers

The really sad thing is that before this season started I thought the Panthers actually had a chance to be decent.  So did many of their fans.  Then again, I thought that about the Bengals too, so that shows how poor my long-term prognostication skills are.  But I'm pretty sure my short-term prognostication skills are just fine, especially on this game.  The Panthers played better last week than they have in a long time.  Two weeks ago I would have said they would very likely lose to a UFL team.  Now they could probably avoid that ignominy, which is a step in the right direction at least.  But even without Troy Polamalu, I cannot truly imagine Jimmy Clausen having more than a snowball's chance in hell.  Now if the Steeler run defense just folds over like a cheap tent and lets Jonathan Stewart just run roughshod all over them that may change, but since I don't expect that I'm sticking with Pittsburgh, no matter how bitter the taste.  Steelers 24, Panthers 13.

AFC North Game of the Week.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns

What the heck are we supposed to expect from the silly Ravens these days?  A game they should win handily which their offense put up quite a few points in they barely squeak by in, then the next week they are pretty good but the only reason they win is the Saints forget how to tackle.  Granted Ray Rice isn't easy to bring down because he's small and shifty, but he's not Chris Johnson for crying out loud, and the Saints sure made him look like Chris on Sunday.

And then the question is what to expect from the Browns?  One week they have Jake the Snake trying to give the game away and escape because of a missed FG, the next they win because he secretly switches uniforms with the opponent's QB, in the third Peyton Hillis runs absolutely roughshod over the opponent but fumbles the game away, and then in the fourth they lose to us because Hillis forgets how to run and our defense finally shows up and they can't stop Cedric from absolutely running all over them.  That's the very definition of inconsistent right there.

Last year the Browns defeated the Steelers when they had everything on the line and the Browns had nothing.  But then they were healthy and motivated to save Mangini's job, not to mention their own jobs as they figured Holmgren would cut them if they slacked off.  This year it looks like Mangini is on the way out and the players aren't playing as well, and they also are losing players to injury right and left.  Many of their best defensive players are now on IR or at least injured, and that, to me, solidifies the deal.  On a neutral field I think Baltimore would win 75+% of the time even if both teams were at full strength.  Even in Cleveland, I think the fact that Baltimore is just healthier should be enough to solidify the win.  I do expect another defensive struggle, but I expect the Ravens to do enough to get the win.  Ravens 20, Browns 10.

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