I would be remiss if I at least didn't mention the fact that that NFL announced their 2011 schedule. I mean, this could be one of only few football posts all year if we have to go without a 2011 season. But before I get ahead of myself and my doomsday predictions, I will take a few moments and comment on my boys in Black N' Yellow. (you all knew I was going to do that)
The Steelers overall statistically have one of the easiest schedules. For this fact, and this fact alone, I have low expectations for the seasons. I know it's a bit of a trend to predict low performance coming off a Super Bowl appearance year but the Steelers seem to always play their best football against the best teams. With a balanced schedule, I'd at least have hope that would swing toward another great season. Their perceived ease doesn't give me hope that they will field their best performances week in and week out. Simply my opinion, and I hope I am wrong.
That being said, the Steelers open the season at the Ravens in Baltimore. Not the most confidence boosting opponent by any means but I wouldn't want it any other way. Why wouldn't you want to face your biggest rival in the opening game? Super Bowl hangover? There is no time for that. Not with the Ravens. These games are always highly contested defensive match-ups that result in some of the best football of all time. As much as I hate the Ravens, I love that they exist. Who else would battle it out as the rival team, the Browns? Please...
Up until last year, I actually didn't know how they picked some of the yearly opponents. Everyone knows you play two games against your divisional foes, one home/one away. That takes care of 6. Another 4 are against another division in your conference, two home/two away. This years division is the AFC South so back come the Colts, Titans, Texans, and Jaguars...all of which, the Steelers do not traditionally play well against. That makes 10 games. Another 4 games are played against another division in the opposite conference, two home/two away. This year is the NFC West so we get the 49ers, the Seahawks in a rematch of SB XL, the Cardinals in a rematch of SB XLIII, and the Rams in a rematch of SB XIV (is it really a rematch if it takes place over 30 years later?).
Now we are down to 2 games left (remember there is still a bye week...I can do math sometimes). These were always the ones that I really didn't get. They always seemed completely random and I figured there was no rhyme or reason to scheduling them. If I paid a little attention, I could have probably figured it out. Apparently, the final two games are are played (one home/one away) against the two teams in the conference that finished the previous year in the same place in the standings of their division. Therefore, by process of elimination, we face the Chefs, I mean Chiefs and everyone's favorite cheaters, the New England Patriots.
If anyone wants access to a PDF version of the schedule, you can click here. For the rest of you, I will break this down a bit. The Steelers get Baltimore in Maryland, home vs. Seattle, at the Colts, and at the Texans. First four games will probably yield 2 wins so 2-2 to start the season. Next we get the Titans and Jags at home followed by a trip to Arizona and then back to Pittsburgh for the Patriots and Ravens again. I'm going out on a limb here and going to say we get 4 out of five of these games, 6-3. The Bengals are up next before the bye week so going in, I'm predicting a modest 7-3.
Here is where I think it will begin to crack. The remaining 6 games feature the Bengals again, the Browns twice, the 49ers, Rams, and Chiefs. Considering how the Browns are never to be taken lightly, I can see these splitting. The Rams have a long way to go but show moments of greatness and I think they will when they play in Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve. No question the Chiefs will be taken a little too lightly and will probably come away with one. The 49ers can go either way so I will give the Steelers the benefit of the doubt here but I don't think they will beat the Bengals twice. So to close it out, they go 2-4 and finish with a 9-7 record. I'm saying they back into the playoffs in week 17 but get tossed in the first round.
Now of course we all know I have no idea what I am talking about and this is all conjecture but I'd much rather plan for the worst and hope for the best. At least I will get the opportunity to watch a couple games on TV in my market (Chicago). We get three games on Sunday Night in America on NBC, a Monday Night Football game on ESPN, a Thursday Night Football game that should be on NFL Network, and probably the Christmas Eve game on Fox (that's a Saturday). I can live with that considering there is a chance of at least 2-3 more being games of the week on CBS.
Now get this financial crap handled and get out there and prove my predictions wrong.
PS...I can't go without a hockey comment...I don't think the Canucks realized they still had one more game to win in this series.