Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Otis Birdsong, the former All-Star sharp-
shooter for the NBA's Kansas City Kings and New Jersey Nets, once quipped that
the three certainties of life were: "Death, taxes and my jump shot."
If you put an NFL spin on Otis' boast, you might replace his feathery jumper
with the fact the Pittsburgh Steelers are always going to be Super Bowl
Or at least you could have until this season.
Age and injuries have finally caught up to the 2013 Steelers and Mike
Tomlin's current bunch is probably earmarked for a year-long, celler-dweller
dogfight with the Cleveland Browns, not it's accustomed spot as one of the
true heavyweights in the AFC.
Since Chuck Noll's first winning season in 1972, the Steelers have had only
seven losing campaigns over a 40-year span with the low-water mark being 5-11
in 1988. Over that same time frame, Pittsburgh has won 20 division titles,
eight AFC crowns and is football's only six-time Super Bowl champion.
This is not an organization used to failure or looking up at the Cincinnati
Bengals in the AFC North standings. In fact, the Steelers have treated the
Queen City like a second home over the years, winning 11 of their last 12 at
Paul Brown Stadium before Monday night's 20-10 setback to Marvin Lewis' crew.
Perhaps no team has had a more difficult start to the 2013 season than the
Accustomed to kicking off a new year in style, especially at home at Heinz
Field, Pittsburgh lost far more than a game in Week 1 when Pro Bowl center
Maurkice Pouncey, defensive leader Larry Foote and running back LaRod
Stephens-Howling all went down with season-ending injuries during an ugly
16-9 setback against Tennessee.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Tomlin said at the time. "Nobody cares about
our problems. They're glad we've got them. We need to understand that. We need
to stick together and persevere."
Persevering wasn't going to be easy in Cincinnati, where an old friend, James
Harrison, and a strong Bengals front seven laid in wait after a bitter Week 1
hiccup at Chicago.
Despite bringing in football's most impressive curriculum vitae, and it's
longstanding dominance over the Bengals, you never got the feeling Pittsburgh
even had a chance on Monday, no doubt a bitter pill to swallow for some
haughty western Pennsylvania fans used to nothing but good times.
For once, Cincinnati had the more talented club and perhaps more importantly,
the healthier one.
Bengals rookie running back Giovani Bernard gave his offense a little juice
out of the backfield and scored two touchdowns as Cincinnati shut down
Bernard ran for an early score and then caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from
Andy Dalton in the third quarter which gave the Bengals a lead they never
"He did the things that we expect him to continue to do. He had the great
catch-and-run. He had a big run earlier. And then (BenJarvus Green-Ellis)
comes back and finishes it off. So it was a good job today by the two of
them," Lewis said.
The real difference, though, was the Bengals defense, which forced two
turnovers and limited Pittsburgh to a mere 278 yards and 14 first downs.
Ben Roethlisberger, hurried throughout the game, threw for 251 yards with a
touchdown and an interception for the Steelers, who have dropped their first
two games of the season for the first time since 2002.
It's also the first time Pittsburgh has been two games under .500 under
Tomlin, who took over in the Steel City back in 2007.
"They were the better team tonight," Tomlin admitted. "We'll continue to work
and move forward."
They will be moving forward, however, with a veteran QB who doesn't like
his offensive coordinator, Todd Haley, an offensive line in shambles and a
running game that's virtually non-existent -- an almost sacrilegious
development for a franchise which has always prided itself on its ability to
run the football.
Tomlin has never suffered through a losing season as a head coach, earning
four playoff appearances, two Super Bowl berths and the Super Bowl XLIII
championship in his previous six years at the helm in Pittsburgh.
In good times or bad -- like last season's .500 finish -- Tomlin has always
"There's a certain amount of misery with the position that we're in," Tomlin
said after watching his team fall to 0-2. "We'll wear it. We don't like it,
(but) we'll wear it."
That steady hand will serve Tomlin well and have the Steelers back into a
desirous situation sooner rather than later, but sooner doesn't mean 2013.
For once, it's all about patience in Pittsburgh.
NFL POWER POLL
The Sports Network's updated NFL Power Poll, which ranks all 32 league teams,
can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2cjp9l8.
THE GAMES (All Times Eastern) - WEEK 3
Kansas City (2-0) at Philadelphia (1-1), Thursday, 8:25 p.m.
LINE: Eagles by 3
THE SKINNY: Kansas City head coach Andy Reid returns to Philadelphia, where he
guided the Eagles to 140 total victories in 14 seasons. He will join Curly
Lambeau and Hank Stram as the only head coaches in NFL history to face a team
he mentored for at least 14 seasons.
"It's not about me," Reid said. "It's about our football team."
That team is just the fifth in league lore to start 2-0 after losing at least
14 games in the prior season.
In Philadelphia, there is a growing concern that Chip Kelly might be the
bizarro Buddy Ryan in that he only cares about offense. Through two games, it
looks like Kelly's vaunted offensive schemes are translating well, but he
rarely had to worry about "silly things" like the defensive side of the ball or
clock management at Oregon. The learning curve is going to be much steeper than
most thought in those aspects.
That said, even though Reid seems rejuvenated in Kansas City, the Chiefs just
don't have the firepower to win the type of game you can against the Eagles.
Meanwhile, the short week of preparation works against a defense trying to
catch up to Kelly's tempo.
"I know that every game we're going to play is going to be close, and that's
what this league is all about," Kelly said. "It's important to execute every
single snap you get out there on the field."
PREDICTION: Eagles 31, Chiefs 23
Houston (2-0) at Baltimore (1-1), Sunday. 1 p.m.
Line: Texans by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: Future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will both be back in
Baltimore for this one. Lewis will enter the Ravens' Ring of Honor while Reed
is expected to make his return from offseason hip surgery against his old
team, at least according to Ravens coach John Harbaugh.
"We'll have to assume that he's going to play," Harbaugh said of the eight-
time All-Pro, who left the reigning Super Bowl champs as a free agent in the
offseason. "We'd be surprised if he didn't play in this game, and we'll have
to assume that he's going to play the way he's played in the past."
The Ravens notched their first win without Lewis and Reed last week against
Cleveland to even their record at 1-1. Baltimore also started 1-1 last year en
route to a victory in Super Bowl XLVII. Against the Browns in Week 2, the new-
look Ravens D allowed just 259 total yards and recorded five sacks.
"We have a chance to be one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league,"
Harbaugh said. "We have to make that happen."
The Texans, meanwhile, forced overtime against Tennessee last week on an Arian
Foster touchdown and two-point conversion with 1:53 remaining in the fourth
quarter before winning in the extra frame on rookie wide receiver DeAndre
Hopkins' 3-yard TD catch. With the victory, Houston became the first team
since 1970 to start 2-0 with both wins coming on the game's final play.
"It's probably not the best for your blood pressure, but we find a way to win
and that's all that matters," said reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year
PREDICTION: Ravens 21, Texans 20
Green Bay (1-1) at Cincinnati (1-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Packers by 2
THE SKINNY: The Packers offense is No. 1 in all of football after becoming the
first team in NFL history with a 450-yard passer (Aaron Rodgers, 480) and 125-
yard rusher (James Starks, 132) in the same game last week against Washington.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis recorded his 80th career regular-season win
Week 2 against Pittsburgh, the most in franchise history. Meanwhile, Cincinnati
has won four of its past five at home and signal caller Andy Dalton has 10 TDs
versus one pick over that span.
PREDICTION: Packers 24, Bengals 21
New York Giants (0-2) at Carolina (0-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Panthers by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: This is a virtual must-win game for two 0-2 clubs. The Giants have
been serving up more turnovers than your local bakery, committing a franchise-
record 10 over the first two weeks. New York QB Eli Manning, who has started
137 consecutive games - the longest active streak in the NFL - is 4-1 lifetime
against Carolina, In Charlotte, Cam Newton's numbers - he's the only player in
NFL history with 8,000-plus pass yards (8,274), 40-plus pass TDs (43), 1,500-
plus rush yards (1,500) and 20-plus rush TDs (22) - haven't translated to
success on the field. Newton is now 13-21 as an NFL starter after last week's
setback in Buffalo.
PREDICTION: Giants 27, Panthers 17
St. Louis (1-1) at Dallas (1-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Cowboys by 4
THE SKINNY: Tony Romo has never lost to the Rams, compiling a 2-0 mark while
recording a 112.1 passer rating. The Cowboys are 28-6 all-time when their
leader has a 110-plus rating. Romo's counterpart in this one, Sam Bradford,
passed for 352 yards in a setback to Atlanta last week and three TDs, which
matched his career-high.
PREDICTION: Cowboys 28, Rams 20
Cleveland (0-2) at Minnesota (0-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Vikings by 5 1/2
THE SKINNY: It's a bit of a "Desperation Bowl" in Minny, where the Browns will
welcome speedy WR Josh Gordon back from suspension but will be without
quarterback Brandon Weeden, who is out with an injured thumb. Instead of going
with backup Jason Campbell, however, rookie coach Rob Chudzinski tabbed third-
stringer Brian Hoyer. The Browns may be able to use "Joe Schmo" against a
Vikings defense allowing 440 yards per game (28th in the NFL) and 32.5 points
PREDICTION: Vikings 27, Browns 20
Tampa Bay (0-2) at New England (2-0), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Patriots by 7
THE SKINNY: The Patriots may be banged-up, especially at the skill positions,
but New England has won 31 of its past 35 home games and All-Pro QB Tom Brady
has a TD pass in 50 straight games, just four behind Drew Brees' NFL record.
Brady is 2-0 as a starter against the Bucs and 35-9 all-time against NFC foes.
That's probably too much to overcome for "Team Turmoil," which seems to be
tuning out second-year head coach Greg Schiano.
PREDICTION: Patriots 20, Bucs 13
Arizona (1-1) at New Orleans (2-0), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Saints by 7 1/2
THE SKINNY: Brees has only met the Cardinals twice in NOLA, but he's put up
some gaudy numbers against them in the Bayou, completing 49-of-62 passes (79
percent) for 562 yards with five TDs and a ridiculous 131.3 passer rating.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson and rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu, who both starred
in college at LSU, are two of the key cogs who will be asked to slow Brees
down. Peterson had four tackles, a pass defensed, a 17-yard completion, a 17-
yard reception and three punt returns in a win over Detroit last week, becoming
the first defender with a catch and a completion in the same game since 1970.
PREDICTION: Saints 34, Cardinals 23
San Diego (1-1) at Tennessee (1-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Titans by 3
THE SKINNY: The Titans will play the first of three consecutive games in
Nashville and will try to halt an ugly nine-game losing streak against San
Diego in their 2013 home opener. In fact, the Titans have never beaten the
Chargers with the franchise's last win in the series coming nearly 21 years
ago on Sept. 27, 1992, when it was known as the Houston Oilers. San Diego is
averaging 37.7 points per game in its last three games against the Titans and
QB Philip Rivers is 5-0 as a starter against Tennessee with 10 TDs and a
passer rating of over 100. The added juice of this being the home opener for
the Titans could finally get them over the top, however.
PREDICTION: Titans 23, Chargers 20
Detroit (1-1) at Washington (0-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Redskins by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: Let's just say the Beltway is not Detroit's favorite place. Since
the Redskins franchise moved to Washington in 1937, it is 21-0 at home against
the Lions. In fact, the only home losses to Detroit came in 1933 and 1935 when
the team was based in Boston. That's just too much history to overcome for an
undisciplined Lions team, even though Washington has looked like a mess over
the first two weeks.
PREDICTION: Redskins 27, Lions 21
Atlanta (1-1) at Miami (2-0), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Dolphins by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Dolphins host Atlanta in their home opener after winning two
straight on the road. In Week 2, second-year QB Ryan Tannehill passed for 319
yards and outplayed Andrew Luck as the Fish beat the Colts, 24-20. Miami also
had two 100-yard receivers in the game: Mike Wallace (nine catches, 115 yards,
TD) and Charles Clay (five catches, 109 yards).
"That was a lot of fun and any time you can get a win on the road, that's a
big accomplishment," Tannehill said.
Matt Ryan threw for 374 yards and two touchdowns and Julio Jones had 11
catches for 182 yards and a TD in the Falcons' 31-24 win over St. Louis in Week
2. Jones, who had an 81-yard TD catch, is the first player in NFL history
with an 80-plus yard touchdown reception in each of his first three seasons.
"Julio and Matt seemed to be in sync, seeing the defense the same way," said
Atlanta head coach Mike Smith. "When you have your receiver and quarterback
doing that, you have a chance to be successful."
PREDICTION: Falcons 28, Dolphins 23
Buffalo (1-1) at New York Jets (1-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Jets by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: A couple of rookie QBs clash in North Jersey as Buffalo's E.J.
Manuel makes his first road start against the Jets' Geno Smith. Manuel threw a
2-yard TD pass with two seconds remaining to lift the Bills over Carolina last
weekend, joining Seattle's Russell Wilson as the only NFL players to throw a
game-winning TD pass inside the two-minute warning in September of their
rookie season since 1960. New York is shooting for its fourth consecutive home
win over Buffalo and coach Rex Ryan will try to improve in his solid 7-2
September home record.
PREDICTION: Jets 17, Bills 16
Indianapolis (1-1) at San Francisco (1-1), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 10 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Colts and 49ers -- two playoff teams from a year ago -- aim to
rebound from Week 2 losses. The game also will mark the first time former
Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Niners' current mentor, and his star
quarterback with the Cardinal, Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, will meet in the
Harbaugh and Luck were together at Stanford for three seasons (2008-10), with
Luck starting two of those years (2009-10). In 2010, the Cardinal finished
12-1, including a victory in the Orange Bowl.
"He's a terrific player," said Harbaugh when talking about Luck. "There
are not a lot of weaknesses that he has. He's a top-notch player. We're going
to have to be very sound against him. This is the third week in a row we're
playing one of the top quarterbacks in the league."
PREDICTION: 49ers 30, Colts 20
Jacksonville (0-2) at Seattle (2-0), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Seahawks by 19 1/2
THE SKINNY: If there was ever a team to take in your knockout pool, it has to
be Seattle this week. Football's best home team is favored by 19 1/2 points as
they welcome the worst team in the game to the Pacific Northwest. Wilson is 9-0
as a starter at home, completing 114-of-183 passes for 1,646 yards with 18 TDs
and just three picks. Meanwhile, the Jags' best offensive player, running back
Maurice Jones-Drew, is dealing with a foot tendon sprain.
PREDICTION: Seahawks 30, Jaguars 10
Chicago (2-0) at Pittsburgh (0-2), Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: Bears by 2 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Bears have been living on the edge, but they also must be
living right, recording two fourth-quarter comeback wins in the early going.
Chicago QB Jay Cutler is 2-0 against the Steelers and will be aiming for his
third straight game with a passer rating over 100.0 against them, a mark that
serves as a bit of a death knell for his opposition. Cutler's teams are 26-1
when he has 100-plus passer rating.
PREDICTION: Bears 20, Steelers 17
Oakland (1-1) at Denver (2-0), Monday, 8:40 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 14 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Raiders and the Broncos will be meeting on "Monday Night
Football" for the record 17th time.
The Peyton Manning-led Broncos lead the NFL with 90 points and are only the
third team in the past 30 years to score 40-plus points in each of their first
two games, joining the 2009 Saints and the 2001 Colts, who were also piloted
Manning leads the league with a 131.0 passer rating and is the only player in
NFL history with nine touchdown passes and no interceptions through the first
two weeks of a season. He threw seven TDs in the opener against Baltimore and
added two more last week versus the New York Giants as he topped his brother
Eli in "Manning Bowl III."
"It was a good team victory," Peyton said. "To go into New York and beat a
good football team on the road, hopefully we can build off that."
Oakland is coming off its first win after running back Darren McFadden rushed
for 129 yards in a triumph over Jacksonville. The Raiders currently boast the
NFL's No. 1 rushing attack, averaging 198.5 yards per game. McFadden leads the
AFC with 177 rushing yards and QB Terrelle Pryor is third with 162 yards.
PREDICTION: Broncos 41, Raiders 17
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