By Ron Johnson
While the Cardinals and Commanders watch everyone else tear it up this week, the Steelers try to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. With the postseason right around the corner and every division still up for grabs, it is indeed a toss-up as to who will reign supreme in both conferences.
And for some, it could be a chance at redemption as well as the division lead.
NFL Week 14
Buccaneers vs. Falcons
The NFC South has become the most atrocious division in the league thus far, and that is putting it lightly. Besides Atlanta, every team is below .500 and apart from the Panthers, are still in playoff contention just because there needs to be a division champion. This brings us to this matchup between the Falcons and Bucs. The Falcons are currently in first place only be luck and impeccable timing, while the Bucs are trying to figure out how to get back in the saddle again. A win for Tampa Bay coupled with a loss by the Saints would produce a potential two (or three)-way tie atop the division with all three teams locked in heading into the final few weeks.
Rams vs. Ravens
The Rams are riding high and on a three-game winning streak, but now they get to the meat and potatoes of their schedule as they face the Ravens for the opportunity to win their fourth straight. As for the Ravens, they are just looking to keep their hold on the AFC North, and to do that, they have to hope that Lamar Jackson will get past his own illness that sidelined him on Friday. With the entire division breathing down their necks, the Ravens can’t afford to lose momentum as they return from their bye week.
Lions vs. Bears
The Lions recovered quickly from the drubbing they suffered a few weeks ago with a win over the Saints. Now they face a Bears team that applied some pressure to them during their last encounter. For the Bears, it is all about securing a high pick in next year’s draft, but for the Lions, it is about taking advantage of Minnesota’s inconsistencies two weeks ago and keeping pace for the NFC North crown. A win benefits the Lions, while a loss opens the door for the Vikings to get themselves back into contention for the division.
Colts vs. Bengals
Gardner Minshew and Jake Browning will take the spotlight in this game as they look to move one step closer to a playoff berth. The Colts have it easier than the Bengals as they have possession of the sixth seed, while the Bengals are in the hunt. The Colts have to find themselves some assistance on the ground game with Jonathan Taylor currently on the injured list. For the Bengals, they are finding a way to win with Browning, so their chances at the postseason are not completely dead in the water. There is also a chance that there may be an AJ McCarron sighting this weekend as well.
Jaguars vs. Browns
The Jags suffered a setback in their Monday night encounter with the Bengals, but they are still in control of their own destiny. With a slim lead in the AFC South, and with the Colts and Texans breathing down their necks, Jacksonville will have little to no time to sulk. The Browns are trying to find a solution to their QB cluster as trying to find someone to replace Deshaun Watson has proven to be complicated. Yes, Joe Flacco showed signs that he still got it, but unfortunately, it is still Joe Flacco. In any event, the Browns are still in playoff contention and still in Baltimore’s rearview mirror. A loss for Cleveland benefits the Steelers, who can’t seem to find their footing against teams with losing records.
Panthers vs. Saints
The Saints are still in playoff contention despite their record. But the highlight of them has not been Alvin Kamara but Jameis Winston. Winston managed to get them back in the saddle against Detroit, but a win over Carolina will put them in position to possibly move closer to the top of a putrid NFC South.
Texans vs. Jets
The Jets are abysmal. And that is putting it nicely. With Aaron Rodgers shut down for the season, and zero chance of them making a push for the playoffs, the Jets are looking more like spoilers than contenders. After a high octane win over the Broncos last week, the Texans are thinking of the playoffs. While the whispers have been quiet, CJ Stroud should be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year with his performances thus far. Considering the Texans are no longer being considered the laughingstock of the league and are in playoff contention, this should worry a Jets defense that has had to shoulder the brunt of the work for them this season.
Vikings vs. Raiders
The Raiders are not dead when it comes to the postseason, but they could use some help to get closer to it. Sitting in the basement of the AFC West currently, Vegas looks to turn it around with a win over a Vikings team that could not put it together in their last game. As for the Vikings, they are 6-6 and looking to not only punch their postseason ticket but also keep the pressure on the red-hot Lions. They will have to erase their last performance from their minds and hope that Justin Jefferson is ready to shine in his return on Sunday.
Seahawks vs. 49ers
To say the least, the Seahawks would like to forget the past month. Sitting on a three-game losing streak, Seattle needs a win in this one to stay in the playoff conversation. Unfortunately for them, they face a Niners team that has found its footing in Christian McCaffrey and is aiming to own the NFC West. Not to add more pressure to San Francisco, but a win for them coupled with a Cowboys win on Sunday night puts the Niners as the top seed in the NFC. IF Seattle can somehow pull it off, expect them to try to make a dream run the last month of the season.
Bills vs. Chiefs
This game was supposed to be an AFC Championship dream match, but the way that Buffalo has been playing the last few weeks has many thinking that there isn’t much to turn the tide. While Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes have created highlight reels in their encounters, both teams are trying to get back on the winning track. After suffering setback after setback in Green Bay, Kansas City will need to bring their A++ game against a Bills team that can still hang with the best of them and upset them in the process.
Broncos vs. Chargers
The Broncos saw their winning streak snapped last week against Houston and now have realized that they are still vulnerable. Denver has picked the perfect time to turn it around as they have gone from playoff afterthought to playoff contenders despite them being 6-6 entering this game. As for the Chargers, these guys can’t seem to get out of their own way. After winning 9-0 against the Patriots, LA needs to find their offense against a Broncos team that is firing on all cylinders and trying to get out of their own way as well.
Sunday Night Football
Eagles vs. Cowboys
This is all about redemption. With control of the NFC East on the line, Philly and Dallas slug it out in the nightcap. For Dallas, they are riding high on a four-game winning streak, and after picking up their first win over a team with a winning record last week, they feel like they can not only hang with the Eagles but beat them also. For the Eagles, they suffered their second loss of the year after getting brutalized by the Niners in their NFC Championship Rematch last week. For this game, it is all about redemption. But it is also about the Cowboys record at home (6-0 this season) versus the Eagles record in the division (3-0) to go along with the division lead. Remember, a Cowboys win and Niners win puts San Francisco as the top seed heading into the final stretch. For Philly, they will have to redeem themselves after getting embarrassed at home last week.
Monday Night Doubleheader
Titans vs. Dolphins
The Dolphins have been underrated and undervalued at times. With the struggles of the Bills, Miami has a chance to solidify their lead in the AFC East. They seem to play better at home (5-0) this season than on the road (4-3), while the Titans are just trying to survive the remainder of the season. Sitting at 4-8 to this point, everything that could go wrong for the Titans has. It also points to mention that Tennessee is 0-6 on the road this season. I don’t see that changing much after this game.
Packers vs. Giants
The Packers are back in playoff contention after their huge win over the defending champs last week, but they are not satisfied with just being barely alive. The Giants are practically done, but they want to make it a fight to the end. Tommy DeVito is doing his damnedest to make it entertaining, and Jordan Love is doing his part to keep Green Bay in the driver’s seat of their own destiny. As the second Monday night game this weekend, it is only fair to give this one a fair shake considering what is at stake for both: closer to the playoffs for Green Bay and a better number in the draft for New York.