The Pittsburgh Steelers take their big (one-game) winning streak back home today to face the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens, their divisional nemesis. When I looked up the game on ESPN, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Steelers favored by three points, which has a lot to do with Baltimore’s mediocrity in all phases of their game except rushing defense (9th-ranked). Pittsburgh is dead last in rushing offense, but they’re 7th in passing offense (vs Ravens’ 18th-ranked D) and fourth in passing defense despite their 1-4 start. Expect Roethlisberger’s arm to be the difference in a low-scoring game. with Steelers winning 21-17.
Last week, I posted my second straight 4-3 result, which puts me at 19-21 for the season. I need a big boost, so let’s see if I can’t sweep it today and tomorrow (all times Eastern):
- Patriots at Jets (1 pm, CBS) – The Jets lost at home to winless Pittsburgh last week, and the Patriots barely outlasted the New Orleans Saints at home. New York has a better team than last season, but not good enough to beat the Patriots. New England 31-20 over the J-E-T-S.
- Cowboys at Eagles (1 pm, Fox) – Two 3-3 teams playing two different kinds of football. Dallas has scared some of the best teams in the league, while the Eagles have rarely been competitive except against lower-division teams. The Cowboys haven’t won on the road this season, but the Eagles haven’t won at home, either. The line has the Eagles up by a field goal, but I think Dallas wins this in a close game, 27-23.
- Browns at Packers (4:25 pm, CBS) – Cleveland is playing its best ball in years, but they’re not going to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field. The Pack is off to a middling 3-2 start but haven’t lost at home, and this won’t be the week that streak gets broken. Packers 33-20 over the Browns.
- 49ers at Titans (4:05 pm, Fox) – Who would have guessed that Colin Kaepernick’s offense would be dead last in passing by week 7? The Titans aren’t much better at 29th, though, and San Francisco’s rushing offense (4th) and passing defense is better than anything the Titans have in opposition. The 49ers have blown out their last three opponents, too, while Tennessee have dropped two in a row (to KC and Seattle, though). The 49er rushing offense will make the difference in a 28-20 win over the Titans.
- Broncos at Colts (8:25 pm, NBC) – Peyton Manning comes home to Indianapolis, which plans to honor his long years during the game, even though owner Jim Irsay demonstrated his lack of class by complaining that Manning only got them one Super Bowl ring. (Memo to Irsay: That’s more than some other teams in the league.) Expect Manning to prove Irsay as adept a personnel manager as a gracious host by demonstrating that the Andrew Luck Era could have waited a couple of years. The Colts will make it competitive, but it’ll still be Denver 38-24 over the Colts.
- Vikings at Giants (MNF, 8:30 pm, ESPN) – If this wasn’t on a Monday, I’d take a pass on it. The Giants are one of three NFL teams without a win, and the Vikings are just a Steelers game away from being in the same position. As well as Peyton is playing this season, two-time Super Bowl champ Eli is playing that badly. Just like with the Cowboys-Eagles game, the Vikes haven’t won on the road and the Giants haven’t won at home, obviously. However, this is about the time that Tom Coughlin teams find themselves, and where better to do so? Manning still has the 8th-best passing offense in the league, and Minnesota the third-worst passing defense. The Giants get off the schneid with a 27-23 win in the Meadowlands.
On a more somber note, NFL coaching legend Oail Andrew “Bum” Phillips passed away this week at 90. He coached the Houston Oilers in their glory years, who were the divisional rivals to the Steelers, so I spent a lot of time rooting against Bum — but I always liked his style. Our prayers go out on behalf of his family, friends, and fans. Rest in peace, Coach.