The NFL playoffs are underway and what a wild weekend it was! With the expanded playoff field, there were two full days of football, with three games on both Saturday and Sunday. Sunday featured two games for the AFC, bringing together two teams that are becoming rivals and a quarterback who may be playing his last season in the league.
Sunday started with the Baltimore Ravens visiting the Tennessee Titans in a game that came right down to the end. And the day ended with the third meeting this season between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was great to see the AFC North highlighted in these two games as the only division that sent three teams to the playoffs! Let’s take a look at what went down.
While it’s snowing in the midwest, the battle for the AFC North is heating up!
The Week 12 Sunday Night Football Game turned into the Tuesday Night game which then became the Wednesday Late Afternoon game for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. Thanks, Covid…
The Steelers top the division standings at 11-0, followed by the Cleveland Browns (yes, the Browns!) at 8-3. The Ravens, 6-5, may be the biggest disappointment so far this year while the Cincinnati Bengals at 2-8-1 still aren’t as far away as their record indicates.
Let’s take a look at what happened this week and who they have coming up on the schedule.
Week 2 of the NFL season started with an offensive showdown in the AFC North last Thursday night, in an inner-state match-up between the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals. Yes, I said an offensive showdown!
In fact, the entire division looked good from an offensive perspective, putting up a combined 124 points. Now, they did allow 102 points so it looks like defense is going to be an issue for most of these teams…. but let’s take a closer look at what happened.
The 2020 NFL offseason has been anything but typical. Training camps are underway with no fans in attendance and our glimpses of the teams have been sketchy at best.
But in looking around the AFC North, at the additions from the draft, the free agency moves and the returns from injury, it seems as if it’s just another normal off-season.
I have to say the team to beat is the Baltimore Ravens – regardless of what Steeler Fan wants to believe. And while Pittsburgh and the Cleveland Browns battle to be second fiddle, I think we all know the Cincinnati Bengals need a lot more help than #1 draft pick Joe Burrow as quarterback.
Let take a look at what each team has been up to so far this year.
I have the great honor of profiling former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.
You know, to me, the Steelers have always been that overall very consistent team. Year in and year out, you can always expect them to be in the mix. They’ve had some drama over the years, but have always been able to weather the storm and right the ship.
A lot of that is due to the consistency they’ve had at the head coach position, which we all know. They’ve only had 3 head coaches since 1969.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is filled with Bears, Eagles, Colts, Lions, and Buffalo(es) to just name a few. But there is only one Tasmanian Devil who will enter the coveted Hall in Canton – Pittsburgh Steeler strong safety Troy Polamalu.
The incredibly soft-spoken and humble safety was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Southern California. However, Polamalu originally was a dual player who played as a running back out of high school, rushing for 1,040 yards and 22 touchdowns and a defensive player with 65 tackles and eight interceptions.
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There have been many debates over the years. Waffles or pancakes? Chocolate or peanut butter? Tastes great or less filling? Allow me to add one more related to the NFL draft: Best available or fill needs?
I decided to dig into which strategy works better by researching ten years of drafts from 2009 through 2019. I chose the best team in each NFL division based on the overall record from that same period. I first looked at statistics for each season for these eight teams.
Items such as points scored and allowed, offensive and defensive rankings in each season, sacks allowed and recorded, and depth issues formed the baseline for what I saw as team needs for each draft. Any player chosen that would help improve the team in any of these areas was seen as a need pick, not a best available. Here are the teams and my analysis:
The trade deadline has passed, and it was pretty uneventful. Yes, there were a few trades in the week leading up, but, as it often does, it ended up being a lot of rumors and wishful thinking. What this week has brought, however, is a handful of odd stories that have many shaking their heads.
Let’s start with Tom Brady. Brady, the 42yr old, future Hall of Fame, current Patriots quarterback, has never played for another team and truly no one could imagine him doing so. Until this week. I think it started with Jason La Canfora’s article saying Brady has an interest in playing for the Los Angeles Chargers next year if he’s not in New England. It snowballed after that, with fans and media grabbing the idea and running with it.
All four of these teams need this break to heal and regroup. What’s interesting to me, is the startling similarities between these four teams.
Two from the AFC North and two from the NFC South. Two struggling with first-year head coaches and sub-par quarterback play, while the other two are dealing with injuries that have taken out their starting QB and left their entire offenses struggling.
But I wonder… will this “Bye” week hurt or heal these teams?