What was it that Mike Tyson said years ago when he was the most feared boxer in the world? “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth?” Was that it? Right now, the AFC North is “everyone” and injuries, poor execution and just plain bad play are Mike Tyson. Once one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, the AFC North is anything but right now and if the Pittsburgh Steelers can’t win this division then it will be a major travesty.
Take a look at what has transpired.
The two favorites, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have been marred by inconsistent play and injuries. The Bengals lost both Giovanni Bernard and A.J. Green yesterday for extended periods of time if not the full season. They are 3-6-1 and going nowhere fast.
Pittsburgh got a much-needed 24-9 win over Cleveland yesterday to keep the Browns winless at 0-11. But the win was marred by an ineffective red zone offense which allowed the Browns to stay in the game until late in the fourth quarter. The only saving grace is that the Steelers are now tied for first at 5-5 and control their own destiny in terms of winning the division.
The Ravens were beaten in Dallas yesterday and fell to 5-5 as well. The looming Christmas Day game at Heinz Field may very well decide the division title and the division’s only playoff spot. Why? Because the wild-cards are not coming from the North in 2016. This division is average at best and that’s where the troublesome part for the Steelers begins.
I don’t think anyone will argue that overall, the Steelers have the most talent remaining in the division. They also have the easiest road when you look at win-loss percentage of the final opponents. The combined records of their final six opponents is 25-35-1. The only team with a winning record is the New York Giants who come to Heinz Field.
Baltimore meanwhile still has dates with Miami, New England and Philadelphia making their road much more difficult to navigate.
My point is here this; if the Pittsburgh Steelers can’t win the AFC North with everything being lined up for them with a nice, neat bow, then this season will have been a greater failure than any of us could have anticipated.