Despite playing the worst ball of the season in three of their last four games the Steelers may still back into the playoffs.
With the exception of the Baltimore Ravens game the Steelers offense has been on vacation the past four weeks. Even though the defense has kept them in games and even won one and nearly another, at some point the offense must show up. They didn’t against the San Diego Chargers which led to a 34-24 defeat making the game this week against the Dallas Cowboys huge. The Chargers game was actually more lopsided than the score indicated, as the Steelers scored most of their points after the game was lost.
The Cowboys 7-6 have played much like the Steelers, up and down, but they have been up lately pulling out a last minute victory, 20-19 over the Bengals last week helping to keep the Steelers playoff hopes alive.
The Bengals could have moved a game ahead of the Steelers but weren’t able to hold on for the victory. The Indianapolis Colts (9-4) entrenched themselves two games ahead of the Bengals and Steelers with an impressive 27-23 come from behind victory over the Tennessee Titans, thus reducing the playoff fight to two teams for one slot, unless something very surprising happens in the final three games. This week the Bengals face the Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) who are coming off a 23-21 upset win over the Tampa Bay Bucs.
The Cowboys led by Tony Romo started off hot, then cooled off, but because of the low quality of play by the other teams in their division still have a good chance of winning it, but they must beat the Steelers. Which makes this game huge because both teams are pretty much out of the playoffs if they lose, or are they?
Romo is having an average season completing 66 percent of his passes with a quarterback rating of 88.5, with 20 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His key receivers are tight end Jason Witten, 92 catches for 860 yards; and wide receivers Dez Bryant, 75 catches for 1028 yards and Miles Austin, 55 receptions for 819 yards. The ground game is average headed by DeMarco Murray, 119 carries for 466 yards and a 3.9 average. Backing him is Felix Jones with 368 yards for a 3.8 average per carry.
In the most important category points allowed and points scored the Cowboys are 16th in points scored, and 22 in points allowed. This game could go in any direction because of the unpredictability of the two teams. The Cowboys have been very inconsistent on both offense and defense whereas the Steelers have been strong on defense but extremely weak offensively with the exception of the Ravens game. Both teams must find a way to get their offense back in gear if they are going to make the playoffs, or more importantly, go anywhere if they do make the playoffs.
The Bengals and Steelers will clash probably for the playoff berth next week. The Steelers will finish the season against the hot Browns, (5-8) and the Bengals against the not so hot Ravens (9-4). The Ravens have dropped from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed, and if the Steelers were playing anywhere up to their talent the two would be fighting for the division title. All the AFC division winners appear to be set with three games left.
AFC East, New England Patriots, 9-3; AFC South, Houston Texans, 11-1; AFC North, Baltimore Ravens, 9-4; and the AFC West, Denver Broncos, 10-3.