The Pittsburgh Steelers go on the road today without their top two quarterbacks, both of whom now have rib injuries. Big Ben Roethlisberger (a new daddy, BTW) also has a shoulder injury and is expected to be out for two more weeks, when he may be ready for the home game against the Chargers — which I’ll attend in person. Byron Leftwich is out, too, the result of cracked ribs suffered early in the narrow loss to Baltimore last week. Instead, Pittsburgh will start Charlie Batch against the Cleveland Browns, with newly-signed Brian Hoyer backing up Batch. Expect a lot of running from Pittsburgh today against the 24th-ranked run defense, although Batch has a new target in the recently-returned Plaxico Burress, too. Even this version of the Steelers should be able to handle the 2-8 Browns, and Pittsburgh really needs the win after the heartbreaker against the Ravens. Steelers 24-10 over Cleveland.
Combining last Sunday’s results to those on Thanksgiving, I went 6-3 to move my season record to 50-19. Can I keep the momentum? Let’s find out:
- Vikings at Bears (Fox, 1 pm ET) – Da Bears got beat up pretty good the last two weeks, especially without Jay Cutler in the lineup. Minnesota isn’t a very good road team. However, Cutler’s only had limited practice this week, and I think this could be an upset in the making. I’ll take the Vikes 27-19 over Da Bears.
- Packers at Giants (NBC, 8:20) – This might be the game of the week. Both teams desperately need a win; the Pack needs Chicago to lose, and the Giants need to stay ahead of Washington and Dallas. The Packers have played better ball than the Giants of late, however, although New York just got a badly-needed bye. I’ll pick the Pack to win this one, perhaps in OT, 38-35 in a shootout.
- Ravens at Chargers (CBS, 4:05) – Well, I know how I’d like to see this game come out, and the Chargers do have a shot at a win. Baltimore was hardly impressive against a beaten-up Steelers squad last week, and they’re not a great road team anyway. I’ll root for the Chargers, but they’re worse at home than the Ravens are on the road. Baltimore 23, San Diego 17.
- Falcons at Buccaneers (Fox, 1 ET) – The Falcons need to keep winning in order to lock in home-field advantage in the playoffs, but they won’t keep winning if they play like they did last week. Tampa Bay is surprisingly improved, and tough at home. I’ll pick the Bucs to pick a couple of Matt Ryan passes and score an upset at home, 31-27.
- Panthers at Eagles (ESPN Monday Night Football, 8:30) – This will probably be a good matchup for two teams not going anywhere, and interesting mainly for the subtext of what it means for the future for Philadelphia. Andy Reid has lost six straight games for the first time as Philly head coach, and he’s widely rumored to be on the way out of the Eagles franchise. Michael Vick will be out again, so Reid will play Nick Foles, who may be the future of the franchise. But there’s a lot more wrong with the Eagles than Vick, and Foles won’t have LeSean Jackson to help him out. Expect Cam Newton to take advantage of Philly’s defense and the Panthers to win one on the road, 31-20.