Looks like Mojokong has taken care of the preview of our game this weekend. I sure hope he's right, because I would really hate for us to go into our BYE week on a two-game losing streak. Sometimes, however, an upset loss is what a team needs to get its collective head extracted from its nether regions and back focused on giving 100% so they can win the games they should (and have a chance even in others). And hey, at least the game sold out. So for those of us here in Cinti, if the game is going well we'll get to enjoy watching it on TV. Here's hoping.
Last week I predicted that the Steelers would win, with a big "please let me be wrong" tagged onto the end. Well I was wrong, so I should be happy, right? I got what I wanted. Well not quite. Because the Bengals also lost, so my scenario I had worked out didn't happen and that reduces the enjoyment. Still, thanks to the Steelers losing we're really only one game out of first in the division which means it definitely ain't over yet. But this does drop me to 3-2 on my predictions for the season.
This week there are two other division games to preview:
Pittsburgh Steelers - BYE
Ain't that just great luck for these guys? They get little ben back and he gets an extra week to prepare to return from his suspension. It's almost like the scheduling crew was trying to make it extra easy on the Steelers for some reason. Well, at any rate, I think we can safely predict they won't win or lose this week.
Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens
Well the Ravens just went into Heinz field and finally got of the shneid when it came to Joe Flacco beating the Steelers. Granted, it was without facing Ben, but on the other hand, it wasn't like Charlie Batch played all that badly in that game. Not great, no, but not that bad either, and Rashard Mendenhall did a good bit of decent running as well. Again not great, but not horrid either. And considering that the Ravens defense actually IS pretty good (pity, that), both are non-trivial accomplishments.
Now the Ravens have the Broncos coming to town. And unlike the old days when you would curse Shanahan for the fact that you never knew which of the four Bronco backs to start in fantasy that week, the Broncos suddenly have absolutely no running game at all. Their best guy is hurt and out for this game. And the Ravens have a very good secondary, which aside from rose-colored-glasses fans nobody saw coming with Ed Reed still on PUP.
There's nothing else that anybody can really call the Broncos except overachievers. They simply don't have a lot of players who are superstars that you expect to shine, yet they have many of those "nobodies" playing absolutely out of their minds. But then there are a fair number of people like that in the Baltimore defense as well. So it will take a minor miracle for the Broncos to pull the upset here. Not that I'll complain at all if I'm wrong, but realistically I have to pick this one as Ravens 27, Broncos 17.
Atlanta Falcons @ Cleveland Browns
Oh how I want the Browns to win this one. Not because I like the Browns, but because of all the teams in the league, the Falcons are who I despise the most. They even beat out the Steelers, though it's a close thing. But realistically, Atlanta is almost certainly the better team. They definitely have the better QB. There's no doubt there. They have the better TE, and they have better WRs. I'd say, however, that the Browns probably have the better RB situation and almost certainly have the better defense. And the game is in Cleveland, and the Atlanta OL is getting old and isn't exactly beating down the world when it comes to run or pass blocking. Nor has Atlanta blown out anybody except the absolute worst team in the NFC right now, i.e. Arizona. They should have lost to the 49ers and they could lose this one as well. The Browns really do have a chance. They'll have to be aggressive on defense, blitzing heavily and using lots of tricks such as zone blitzes, but if they can fool Ryan and his line they will have the opportunity to keep themselves in the game.
For this one to go the way I want it to, Peyton Hillis is going to have to run wild. Atlanta has a decent run defense but any defense can be tired out with enough runs, and they've had the tendency to give up the big play on the running game as well. Hillis has to keep pounding the ball and pounding it and hoping for something to break. At the same time, whoever plays QB must keep them honest with both accurate passes to keep moving the chains and even occasional deep strike attempts, but primarily quick slants and other zone-coverage-beaters, because Atlanta is pretty much a zone-based team. But if the Browns can treat this like they are playing Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady (and while Matt Ryan isn't that good yet, he's not nearly as far behind as I wish he was) and focus on wearing out the Atlanta defense and keeping their offense on the sideline, they do have a chance to steal the upset.
It will be an upset if this happens, at least by the spread and the NFL writer's picks (some people even picked Atlanta as their lock of the week). And in most ways it's the logical pick, Atlanta is the better team overall, and they are only 2-10 against the Browns all-time, so they have to win eventually. But the better team doesn't always win, if they did, there would be no point in playing the game. In fact, the only real reason I'm hesitating on my pick is because Peter King picked the Browns too, which greatly increases the chances of us both being wrong. But what the heck. It will probably be a squeaker, but if they play as well as they did against us last weekend then they can pull it out. I'll go with Browns 24, Falcons 23.