All right, let’s just get this out there. After flying 1500 miles to Southern California and watching the Fighting Irish get the slainte knocked out of them, I deserve a break — and I hope the Steelers can provide it at New England today. It should be a good game to watch, but I’ll be visiting family and friends today, so I’ll have to catch the updates as I can. Both teams need the win, especially the Steelers, whose schedule only gets tougher after this. Can the Steelers’ D force the inexperienced-but-impressive Matt Cassel into a few mistakes?

This matchup has a bit less appeal with QB Tom Brady and SS Rodney Harrison out, but it should be a hard-hitting showdown nonetheless. A few important questions: QB Matt Cassel has improved every week, but can he handle the stellar Steelers defense? Can Pittsburgh’s linebackers cover WR Wes Welker in the slot, or will SS Troy Polamalu shadow him? Is the Patriots’ defense up to stopping QB Ben Roethlisberger, and how will that group try to exploit the Steelers’ protection schemes? Expect Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to use a lot of no-huddle to neutralize Pittsburgh’s pressure schemes and substitution packages.

The Steelers have a couple of days more rest than the Patriots after their Thursday night win. Hopefully that will give them the edge. I’ll pick Steelers over the Patriots, 21-17.

Here’s a game-day question for Giants fans: can they win without Plaxico Burress, who shot himself in the leg Friday night? They’re playing a tough Washington Redskins on the road. They’re 3-0 in the division, but the Burress distraction may give the Skins an edge. I’ll predict an upset, 24-14 Washington.

Final question: How is Baltimore only a six-point favorite over the hapless Cincinnati Bengals?

Tags: California NFL