Eye on the Enemy: Week 3

On Wednesday, I got to borrow a USA Today sports section when a guy sitting next to me on the plane was done with his copy.  I generally don't read them online, I don't have the time, but I was bored and it gave me something to do.  In it they had reprinted a comment from their "The Huddle" blog from the article about the guy who caught Brandon Jacob's helmet having a cop show up to take back the helmet.  User "cupsandmagnets" said:

This fan cannot keep this helmet because upon further review, he did not complete the ENTIRE process of maintaining possesion of the helmet after it flew into the stands.

I bring this up for three reasons.  One, it's hilarious.  Two, Calvin Johnson and the Lions were both robbed by the rules of the game, and the competition committee desperately needs to fix this rule.  And three, we're only two weeks into the season and we're already having tons of ref controversies.  We have that catch/not-catch.  We have the blatant pass interference that didn't get called against the Ravens last week.  We had the roughing the passer on Carson which really shouldn't have been called, but I kinda view as make up for some of the other crappy calls that didn't go our way.  And we've got quite a few others from many other games.

Though the NFL should continue to try to improve things, no matter what they do there will still be times we feel the refs cheated us of a game.  It's naturally human and the easy thing to do.  But it's also wrong.  I've never reffed football, but I have reffed other sports before and I know from personal experience just how hard it is to get every call right.  It's flat out not possible at all.  You try.  But you just can't do it.  So the next time the Bengals get robbed on a few calls, let's keep that in mind.  The refs are trying.  They aren't going to get every call right.  We just have to hope they get enough right and few enough egregiously wrong that it doesn't cost us a game we should have won.

So enough about the refs, what are the division rivals up to these days?

Last week the Chiefs defeated the Browns as I predicted, and the Titans lost to the Steelers which was the opposite of what I expected.  In the Chiefs/Browns game I did get it right that defense was going to be the key, and I suspect Romeo had a lot of thanks for his defensive players for helping him get that win.  Unfortunately I didn't give the Steelers enough credit on their defense.  I thought the Titans OL was in better shape than it was.  I was at least part right that the Steelers OL is still a sieve, and it got poor Dixon clobbered.  Division rival or no, we still shouldn't root for injuries.  But I have to admit I'd love it if some other team outside the division would pay whatever it takes to steal Troy Polamalu away.  And I wouldn't mind too much if Dick Lebeau would finally get around to retiring.

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

This week an absolutely reeling Browns team travels to face a thoroughly ticked-off Ravens team.  We thought that game was pretty badly reffed too, but from their perspective the refs handed us that last game.  Kinda sad that there were that many bad calls (in both directions) that both teams can have something to complain about.  Hopefully that ref crew will do a better job in the future.

This game has blowout written all over it.  A Browns team that can play OK defense but nothing else (and if they do manage to do anything on offense then frequently turns the ball over to lose scoring opportunities or even flat out give points to the opponent) just doesn't stand a chance against anything but maybe the Bills or the Rams.  If they can quit giving up turnovers, then they might stand a tiny chance.  But I don't think it will happen.

On the other hand, last week was supposed to be a blowout for the Ravens.  And it wasn't.  Was the problem (from their perspective, not ours of course) that the Ravens offense isn't very good?  Was it that Flacco was horrid?  Was it Cam Cameron being an idiot?  Or was it just that our defense was putrid the first week and quite good the next?  We'll find out this week.  The Browns seem to have a semi-decent defense -- not great, but decent.  Or is it?  The Tampa offense and KC offenses looked putrid against it, but was it the fact that Tampa's or KC's offense was really that putrid, or was it the Browns defense that did a good job?  I'm starting to think it might be the latter, because Tampa did a pretty good job of steamrolling Carolina, which I don't think is that bad a defense.  And KC was able to move the ball (on the ground at least) against the Chargers, which again isn't a completely putrid defense either.  If they can slow down the Ravens as well, then odds are good the Ravens offense isn't nearly as good as the pundits thought.  And if everything goes perfectly (including a minor miracle or two) I suppose they might pull off the upset.  But at M&T Bank Stadium?  I just don't see it.  I'm going Ravens 13, Browns 6.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Two teams, both 2-0.  Two teams that few expected to be 2-0.  A lot of people expected the Falcons to beat the Steelers in week one, and many people figured the Bucs were bad enough that Cleveland would at least win that game (if few others).  And Cleveland really should have, but for a totally boneheaded INT, a fumble, and a failure to reel in a potential INT that became a TD instead, they probably would have.  So once again the Steelers should win this game in a landslide.

But the Bucs are playing pretty good defense right now.  And the Steelers aren't doing too much on offense.  Mendenhal, save for one big run in OT, had a measly 70 yards on 21 carries against Atlanta, and this is a team that you are supposed to be able to run on.  He was about the same against the Titans, with 23 for 69.  Dixon did do some good passing, but he's out now with an injury.  Batch will probably do OK, but he's never been that great of a QB.  And while Ronde Barber is old and Aqib Talib is still a kid who can be tricked, the Buc secondary has done a pretty good job so far.  Then again, their opposition hasn't been very good, and they've now lost Tanard Jackson to suspension.

So while I expect another defensive slug-fest in this game, I really expect the Steelers to win this one.  I'll root for the Bucs anyway, just in case, but I don't think they have a prayer even in their own home stadium.  Neither do their fans, apparently, since they couldn't sell out in time to avoid a blackout.  So I'm going to go with Steelers 19, Bucs 10.

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