Posted on: December 31, 2008 12:17 am
Edited on: December 31, 2008 12:18 am

NFL: Shanahan shocker as coach carnage continues

If you had told me last night that by this past evening Mike Shanahan would be out of a job, I'd have said you were out of your mind. But just that has happened.

Shanahan became the fourth casualty in this year's version of The Blame Game as he was fired today by Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. Bowlen was quoted as saying, "“A change in our football operations is in the best interests of the Denver Broncos. This is certainly a difficult decision, but one that I feel must be made and which will ultimately be in the best interests of all concerned.”

The curious thing about Shanahan's case is that his firing appears to have surprised everyone, media, fans, everyone. I've visited a couple of threads, posted on one, on which people are pondering with abject bewilderment what could have happened to warrant sending Shanahan to the Island of Misfit Coaches along with former Browns coach Romeo Crennel, former Jets coach Eric Mangini, and former Lions coach Rod Marinelli.

All four of these positions are still in play, as reports now are that Bill Cowher, who the Browns apparently were attempting to woo, is not interested in taking over for Crennel. This was the one open position for which I've heard any solid information of interest so far. Bowlen's statement doesn't qualify because it is too cryptic. I believe we probably will find out more about exactly what happened in Denver as we get closer to the weekend.

Of this jobless quartet, I think that Shanahan likely will be the first to get hired on again somewhere else. If he wants to, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he is already working again next year. As for the other three, it may take a year or two for them to get back on someone's radar screen, although, as I wrote in my last blog, there are a limited number of candidates available for the jobs that have come open.

Will there be more firings later this week? All we can do is stay tuned and watch it unfold. I seem to recall that, before recent years, teams used to wait until after the playoffs and Super Bowl were over before making such moves. I guess there is more urgency now in making a splash to prove you're doing something than in letting things settle and allowing us fans to enjoy the playoffs before getting blood on the floor, even if we likely were anticipating seeing it there.

Posted on: December 21, 2008 5:14 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2008 5:24 pm

Bengals overpower ineffective Browns 14-0

The Bengals didn't have a fantastic day, particularly Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was only 5 of 9 for 55 yards, but one of those throws was a 20-yard touchdown on another great fade route to Chris Henry, Henry's only catch of the day. With Leon Hall already having returned an interception of Ken Dorsey 50 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, that would be all the scoring the Orange & Black would need to overpower an ineffective Browns team 14-0 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns just couldn't seem to get their feet under them on the frozen tundra of upstate Ohio.

One highlight of the game for the Bengals was a career day for running back Cedric Benson, who had 38 carries for 171 yards. He did to the Browns what Jamal Lewis usually does to the Bengals. Lewis was held to 76 yards on 16 carries. The Bengals had just 246 total offensive yards for the game, while the Browns had 182 total yards. The Browns amassed 137 yards total on the ground. T.J. Houshmandzadeh did nothing most of the day but puzzlingly make poor attempts to field punts. He had no receptions. He will have to get eight next week against the Chiefs in the final game of the season to make 100 for the season, and he's in danger of missing out on 1,000 yards for the year. Anthony Collins and the rest of the offensive line had a good day, giving up no sacks and opening up space for Benson to run.

The other highlight was on defense. Hall, whose play has been inconsistent this year, came up big, adding two more interceptions after the Pick Six in the first quarter. His three interceptions tie a franchise record. John Thornton had four tackles with two sacks. Brandon Johnson had seven tackles, three assists, and an interception. Dhani Jones had six tackles and an assist, and Chinedum Ndukwe and Domata Peko each had five tackles and an assist, with Ndukwe notching a sack. Chris Crocker, a great find for the Bengals, had three tackles.

Browns quarterback Dorsey was 10 of 17 for 68 yards and three interceptions. He went out of the game in the fourth quarter with a rib injury and was spelled by Bruce Gradkowski, who was 2 of 5 for 8 yards and one interception. This was not a good day for the Browns' QBs, just as it was not really a good day for Fitz.

Of the guys on the Browns I wanted to watch today (I picked Benson, Collins, Crocker and Houshmandzadeh to keep an eye on for the Bengals), Josh Cribbs had 5 carries for 32 yards, 1 kickoff return for 24 yards, and a punt return for 24 yards, an OK day, all in all. I think during better times, Cribbs would be a better producer. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers had 4 tackles and an assist, doing a decent job jamming up the middle against the Bengals run and forcing a lot of the rushes to the perimeter. Joe Thomas did a decent job on the offensive line, but Eric Steinbach had a couple of missteps, contributing to a Browns' penalty count of 9 for 65 yards.

The Bengals had another competent winning effort against a team that seems poised to come apart at the seams. The offseason is going to mean a lot to both the Bengals and the Browns.

The Bengals (3-11-1) finish out the season at home next Sunday against the Chiefs, who dropped to 2-13 after losing a close game today to the Dolphins 38-31. The Browns (4-11) finish their season next Sunday on the road against the Steelers.

Around the AFC North . . .

Steelers -- The Steelers ran into a buzz saw today in Nashville, losing 31-14 to the Titans. With the win, the Titans claim homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Steelers host the Browns next Sunday to finish out their season.

Ravens -- The Ravens got two late-game TD runs from Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain to seal the deal last night against the Cowboys 33-24.


If the Ravens can beat the Jaguars at home next Sunday, they should clinch the second AFC Wild Card bid.

Merry Christmas, everyone!



Posted on: December 17, 2008 9:23 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2008 12:34 pm

Bengals/Browns, Take Two! Ohio on edge . . .

In the second to last game for the Bengals (2-11-1) and the Browns (4-10), both teams are working to salvage positives from the 2008 season. There are more questions than answers, though, for the teams right now, as they try to maintain focus and not look toward 2009. Marvin Lewis' job seems secure (at least according to him and Mr. Brown), but what about Romeo Crennel? Will Carson Palmer come back healthy for 2009? Will it be Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson for the Browns to start the season next year?

Here's what I'm looking forward to in this matchup.

Anthony Collins, Chris Crocker, Cedric Benson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- Collins is still learning, but he has shown promise to be able to become a regular on the left side of the Bengals' offensive line. He's been burnt a few times, but more often than not, he has protected Ryan Fitzpatrick reasonably well. Crocker has become a solid presence in the Cincinnati secondary, blitzing, flying to the ball on coverage, making heads-up and hard tackles. For a guy the Bengals picked up off the street, he has become a visible and important presence in the team's defense. Benson has shown he can put up good numbers behind a functioning offensive line, and he keeps hustling. He's got the legs, and he's got the pop. I want to see more! And what can you say about T.J., who has been the most consistent, productive member of the offense this year. Approaching his second consecutive 100-catch season, and another 1,000 yard campaign, we could be seeing Housh in his swan song for the Bengals during the next two weeks.

Joe Thomas, Shaun Rogers, Eric Steinbach, Josh Cribbs -- Not having been able to watch the Browns much this season, I'm eager to see Pro Bowl selections offensive tackle Thomas (starter) and nose tackle Rogers (reserve) plying their trades. The buzz is that the two are deserving of this recognition, and I'd like to see for myself. I'm interested to see how former Bengal offensive guard Steinbach, one the Bengals shouldn't have let get away, is doing these days. And I want to see how the Bengals game-plan for Josh Cribbs, who has turned into a dynamic all-around offensive weapon for the Browns.

By The Numbers

Points per game -- Bengals 12     Browns 17

Passing Yards per game -- Bengals 159     Browns 166

Rushing Yards per game -- Bengals 80     Browns 97

Points Allowed per game -- Bengals 26     Browns 22

Passing Yards Allowed per game -- Bengals 218     Browns 216

Rushing Yards Allowed per game -- Bengals 125     147

Total Offense -- Bengals 239     Browns 263

Total Defense -- Bengals 343     Browns 364

These two teams are fairly well matched statistically across the board. If the Bengals can get the run game going behind Benson and make the best of a slight advantage in rushing yards allowed per game by the Browns, and figure out how to negate Rogers' presence in the middle, they may have an edge on the ground. The passing games are nearly even up by the averages, but Dorsey has struggled while Fitz seemed to find his game last week against the Redskins.

In this year's first edition of the Battle of Ohio, the Browns won the tilt at Paul Brown Stadium 20-12. The Browns are field-goal favorites in this game, the usual home-field advantage "tip of the hat" line for evenly matched teams. Four of the five CBS experts and SPIN pick the Bengals to win. Mr. Prisco went with the Browns.

I'll be tuned in Sunday to watch this titanic struggle. Good luck, Browns and fans! Fourteen down, two to go! The anticipation is killing me!

Around the AFC North . . .

Steelers -- The Steelers (11-3) travel to play the Titans (12-2) on Sunday. I've seen close lines from Steelers by 2 to Titans by 1. This could be the game of the week.

Ravens -- The Ravens (9-5) travel to play the Cowboys (9-5) in a Saturday night matchup. The Cowboys are 5-points favorites at home in another game that has huge playoff implications for both teams.



Posted on: December 16, 2008 8:05 pm
Edited on: December 17, 2008 8:03 am

T.J. goin' Bowling? AFC North heavy hitters

He's ninth among all AFC wide receivers and 18th overall among receivers in the NFL, with 92 catches for 904 yards (average of 9.8 yard per catch) and four touchdowns. He's poised to join a special group of receivers with consecutive 100-catch seasons during their careers. He needs eight in the season's remaining two games. He leads the NFL in third-down catches with 31. He has been a standout on a less-than-mediocre Bengals team this year, giving his best effort every week and working hard to keep morale up on a team stumbling toward the finish line of the 2008 regular season.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh was named today as a second alternate among AFC wide receivers going to the Pro Bowl on February 8 in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Housh went to last year's Pro Bowl and was the first Bengal to score two touchdowns in the NFL's equivalent to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. Starting wide receivers for the AFC are Andre Johnson of the Texans and Brandon Marshall of the Broncos. Reserve wide receivers are Reggie Wayne of the Colts and Wes Welker of the Patriots. For T.J. to get the call, two among the starters and reserves at receiver would have to decide not to go to Hawai'i.

In a story by Geoff Hobson on the Bengals official website, Housh showed disappointment, but was resolute that he would make it back to the Pro Bowl next year, whether he's wearing a Bengals' uniform or another team's colors.

"That's OK. I'll go next year. I'll go next year wherever I am," said Houshmandzadeh.

Here is a link to the story on the Bengals' website:


Housh's comments pour fuel on the flames of speculation that he won't be back on the Bengals next year. Rumor has it that he and the team are far apart on the numbers for a new contract for T.J., who becomes a free agent in 2009. Many fans believe he is important to the success of the team next year and in the near future, but that he is not necessarily essential to that success. T.J. has said he does not believe the Bengals will put the franchise tag on him.

For this writer, I believe it is critical to bring Housh back. The Bengals need to step up to keep his leadership, his attitude and his talent in the fold. The team's wide receivers need a veteran example to follow into the future, and I believe he is that example.

Congrats, T.J., and better luck next year, wherever you may be (here's hoping it's with the Bengals).

Around the AFC North . . .

Here are lists of the players from the Ravens, Browns and Steelers who made it to the Pro Bowl as starters and reserves.

Ravens -- Fullback Le'Ron McClain (starter), Linebacker Ray Lewis (starter), Safety Ed Reed (starter), Special Teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo  (starter), Linebacker Terrell Suggs (reserve)

Browns -- Offensive Tackle Joe Thomas (starter), Defensive Tackle Shaun Rogers (reserve)

Steelers -- Linebacker James Harrison (starter), Safety Troy Polamalu (starter), Linebacker James Farrior (reserve)

Congrats to all the picks from the AFC North. I hope I didn't miss anyone, but if I did, I hope someone will point out the oversights. I haven't had time to look up the Ravens, Browns and Steelers who may be among the alternates, so if you know those, too, post 'em up!



Posted on: December 15, 2008 1:21 am

CIN/WAS Footnote: goal-line stand. BAL/PIT

I didn't want to close the book on today's Bengals versus Redskins matchup without giving the Bengals' defense one more pat on the back.

A little more than midway through the third quarter, with the score 17-10 Bengals, the Redskins had the ball second-and-goal at the Bengals'  1 yard line. Mike Sellers ran the ball up the middle into a pile of players with 6:27 left in the quarter for what looked to be a touchdown. But wait! Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who has typically been hesitant to throw the challenge flag this season, dropped one to challenge whether Sellers had broken the plane of the goal with the ball before he was down on the play. After consideration, the ruling was reversed, with the referee saying Sellers' knee was down before he extended the ball over the goal line. The Redskins went to third-and-goal at the 1/4-yard line.

On third down, the Redskins ran Sellers up the middle again, into a pile of players again, and, in the process of descending through that pile of players, still working to find the goal line, the ball was literally taken out of Sellers' hands by Bengals' linebacker Corey Mays. A fumble, turnover and touchback was ruled for the Bengals. But wait! Redskins head coach Jim Zorn challenged this ruling, believing the ball had broken the plane of the goal before Mays took the ball out of Sellers' hands. The call on the field was upheld, and the Bengals took over on their own 20.

In the fourth quarter, the teams would trade field goals, but that would be the rest of the scoring for the game. If not for the goal line stand, this game could have gone to overtime. Congrats to the Bengals' defense on the first goal-line stand. Congrats to the D on the second goal-line stand and particularly to Corey Mays for the takeaway. Congrats to the officials for getting the calls right on both plays. And congrats to Marvin Lewis for winning two challenges today, including this one.

Around the AFC North . . .

Steelers versus Ravens -- This game was all it was billed to be. These two teams beat each others' brains out for a full 60 minutes, with the Steelers coming out on top 13-9, after a controversial call on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Santonio Holmes with less than a minute left in the game. With the win, the Steelers nab their second consecutive AFC North championship, grab a first-round playoff bye, and force the Ravens to continue their fight for a wild card bid. The Steelers travel to play the Titans next Sunday, and the Ravens play the Cowboys at Dallas in a Saturday night matchup.

Browns versus Eagles -- The Browns line up against the Eagles in Philadelphia in the Monday night matchup.

Posted on: December 10, 2008 10:43 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2008 10:45 pm

AFC North: the early lines - Fun with numbers!

This week offers a range of opening lines confronting the teams in our favorite conference, the AFC North.

-- The Bengals (1-11-1) are touchdown underdogs at home to the Redskins (7-6). The Bengals are now in "13 down, three to go" mode, while the Redskins struggle to maintain relevance in the NFC East. The Redskins desperately need a win. The Bengals are still wondering if Carson Palmer will play in the last two weeks of the season (puh-leeeeeeeezzzzz!!!).  Considering how the Ravens picked the Redskins apart last week, the Bengals may have a shot here. Wait, who am I kidding! But, you know I'll be watching and rooting for my favorite bunch of perennial NFL losers!

-- In what may be the Game of the Week, the Ravens (9-4) are two-point favorites at home against the Steelers (10-3). The Ravens have hit their stride, and the Steelers continue to find ways to win in close games. This is a showdown of epic proportions. The Steelers need the win to stay atop the AFC North. A Ravens win would bring a tie for the conference lead and make the last two games on their schedules that much more meaningful for both teams. Pittsburgh enters the game on a four-game win streak, including last week's late-game emotional win over the Cowboys. The Ravens enter the game on a three-game streak of their own, including 29+-point wins over the Eagles and the Bengals and a two-touchdown win over the Redskins last week. Whichever way it goes, both these teams are likely destined for the playoffs. The line is less than the usual field-goal tip of the hat for home-field advantage, so this is essentially a "pick 'em" game.

-- The Browns (4-9) travel to meet the Eagles (7-5-1), who are two-touchdown favorites. The Eagles are 2-1 since the tie against the Bengals and feeling the momentum after a 48-20 win over the Cardinals and an important 20-14 conference win over the rival Giants. The Eagles need a win to keep pace with the Cowboys and the Redskins in the AFC East, since the Giants already have clinched the division and a playoff spot. The Browns enter this game on a three-game losing streak, including a 28-9 loss last week to the Titans. Even though their record is better than the Bengals', I believe the Browns are already in "Let's get this thing over with" mode, much as the Bengals are. The spread seems a bit generous, but with the Eagles at home on a roll and the Browns ready to call it done for this year, the Eagles could put it on them.

Look for an in-depth Redskins versus Bengals preview before this week's game.



Posted on: December 7, 2008 6:22 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2008 12:37 am

Colts run roughshod over Bengals 35-3

It may sound weak to some, but I actually thought the Bengals were in this game until late in the second quarter. After a 22-yard interception return by Colts' cornerback Kelvin Hayden with 1:13 left in the half put the ball on the Bengals' 15 yard line, Bengals receiver Chris Henry shoved a Colts' defensive back to the ground, resulting in an unnecessary roughness call that halved the distance to the goal line for the Colts. So, instead of giving the defense a chance to hold the Colts to a field goal, Henry essentially spotted the opposition seven points and turned over any momentum the Bengals could have gained at the end of the first half. The Colts quickly scored on a Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison 5-yard strike that was way too easy. The Bengals went to the half down 14-3 and completely deflated.

Bengals buckle again -- The final score of the game was 35-3, the second consecutive game in which the Bengals have given up 34 or more points and lost by 31 or more points. Place kicker Shayne Graham put the only points on the board last week versus the Ravens and this week versus the Colts. Both Graham field goals have come in the second quarter, when momentum seemed headed in the right direction, but quickly went south in both games. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 18 of 26 for 170 yards and two interceptions. Fitz also made two fumbles, one of which he fortunately was able to get on top of after a Robert Mathis force he didn't see coming, but another he gave up because he forgot to tuck the ball on a scramble. Fitz also was sacked four times. Jordan Palmer entered the game for the Bengals' last offensive series, just in time to get sacked once and give up an interception. On that last possession, Palmer was 4 of 6 for 30 yards.

Chad Johson had five catches for 79 yards, one of his best efforts this year. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had eight catches for 75 yards. You would think that, with two receivers putting up reasonable numbers, the Bengals could have mustered some more points, but it was not to be. In yet another non-factor performance, Chris Henry caught two balls for 20 yards. For me, the "highlight" of Henry's day was him giving up on the play when Hayden made an interception in front of him in the fourth and ran it back 85 yards for a touchdown, with Henry not even trying to run Hayden down or get in the play on the return. Cedric Benson got 57 yards on 16 carries, with Fitz again the second best rusher on the day, carrying the ball three times for 17 yards.

The defense garnered no sacks, but held the Colts to a combined 57 yards rushing on 20 carries, 10 each by Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes. Rhodes had a touchdown on the day. The Bengals actually won the time of possession battle in this one, holding the ball 32:53 to the Colts' 27:07. The Bengals ran more plays (61 to 52) and had almost as many first downs (17 to 20).

Colts romp -- As predicted, Manning feasted on the Bengals' secondary, going 26 of 32 for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Marvin Harrison had three catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Gijon Robinson had six catches for 69 yards. Receiver Reggie Wayne had five catches for 48 yards. TE Dallas Clark had four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown, while receiver Anthony Gonzalez had three catches for 27 yards and a touchdown.

When you have a quarterback like Manning and the talent he has to throw to, all you need is enough running to keep defense honest. The Colts did this to perfection. As noted above, the Colts were held to only 57 yards on the ground, but 20 carries was enough for Manning to mix things up and use his full array of plays against the Bengals.

Defensive end Robert Mathis had 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Defensive end Dwight Freeney had a sack and a half, and defensive end Darrell Reid notched a sack. Kelvin Hayden had the two interceptions mentioned earlier, and cornerback Dante Hughes had one. Safety Melvin Bullitt also had a forced fumble.

Thankfully for the Bengals, from a health standpoint, it looks like this game ended with the players on the field fairly unscathed. And the Bengals only had three penalties on the day for 23 yards.

Next up for the Bengals are the Redskins, who play the Ravens tonight at Baltimore. Next up for the Colts are the Lions, who held a lead late again this week, against the Vikings, but folded at the end to lose 20-16.

Around the AFC North . . .

-- The Browns had a day like the Bengals today, losing to the Titans 28-9 on the road.

-- The Steelers are locked in a close one with the Cowboys, with the Cowboys up 10-3 in the 3rd quarter at Pittsburgh.

-- The Ravens host the Redskins later tonight.

Posted on: December 5, 2008 8:26 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2008 10:46 pm

Bengals @ Colts -- The I-74 rivalry

According to the CBS preview, the line for this game opened at 14 1/2 points, and has now settled back to 13 1/2. Vegas, CBS, it doesn't matter. The Bengals have a tough, if not impossible task on their hands this weekend as they take on interstate rival the Indianapolis Colts.

Maybe, just maybe, the Bengals could get lost along the way. I should have invited the team to my house for a cookout and given them bogus directions. I could help them get lost enough that, if they left on Friday to drive up to Indy, they might not find their way back to Cincinnati until Tuesday.

The thrill of victory . . . -- The Colts (8-4) come to this matchup on a five-game win streak, with an average winning score of 21-18. This does not sound overwhelming, only a field goal's margin, but the Colts are doing everything a good team does to win games. Last week, their defense helped them triumph over the Browns, with a fourth-quarter sack of Derek Anderson that forced a fumble and led to the only touchdown of the game. Peyton Manning has finally found his form of late, too, going an average of 24 of 36 for almost 240 yards per game in the Colts' last five. During those five games, he also has thrown for nine touchdowns and given up three interceptions, definitely much more Peyton-like numbers than earlier in the season. The Colts are due for a breakout, and the Bengals probably can't supply much to stop them. As well, the Colts know they are scrapping still for a playoff position. At 8-4, they likely need to win at least two of their last four games to be reasonably assured of a playoff berth.

The agony of defeat . . . -- The Bengals (1-10-1) are now struggling simply to put a cohesive team on the field. The team is more or less having to triage injured players to see who can play. Players again were moved up from the practice squad, and more were signed to fill slots there and on the active roster. A good number of these injuries are on the defensive side of the ball and may have more than a little to do with the fact that the Bengals' offense has been so unproductive that the defense has had to spend way too much time on the field. The wear started to show about two weeks ago and has just gotten worse. This is not written in the way of an excuse, but in the way of explaining how badly this year has gone for the Bengals. As bad as their record says it is, it is only compounded by ongoing troubles with injuries. Interviews in Cincinnati newspapers this week quoted Bengals' players on how difficult it is to play with people you barely know and have barely practiced with. Head coach Marvin Lewis has even commented this week on the injury issue. With four games left, it's looking likely the Bengals could suffer their worst season in recent memory, perhaps going 1-14-1. Judging by the situation, it would not surprise me at all to see this happen.

By The Numbers

Points per game: Bengals 13   Colts 21

Passing Yards per game: Bengals 154   Colts 239

Rushing Yards per game: Bengals 78   Colts 80

Point Allowed per game: Bengals 26   Colts 21

Passing Yards Allowed per game: Bengals 218   Colts 188

Rushing Yards Allowed per game: Bengals 132   Colts 134

Total Offense: Bengals 232   Colts 319

Total Defense: 349   Colts 322

Going by the numbers, with the Bengals giving up an average of 217 air yards a game, Manning likely will be able to feast on a dinged-up Bengals' secondary, regardless of the Colts' weak running game. If the Bengals can muster some push from their offensive line, they may be able to take advantage of the Colts' comparative weakness against the run, with the team allowing two rushing yards more per game (134 yards to 132 yards) than the Bengals. Give Cedric Benson some room to maneuver and maybe he could produce, but continuing forward with a banged-up, patched-up offensive line, this will be hard to do.

The Bengals continue to play for pride and because, by virtue of the fact they are professional football players and get paid to take the field on Sunday from September through December, they have a job to do. Hope springs eternal in the heart of a fan. Maybe these last four games will teach some lessons and provide some valuable experience. The Colts are thundering toward the playoffs, and they know they can't overlook the Bengals and can't afford to lose this game with tough contests against Jacksonville and Tennessee coming up in the last two weeks of the season.

All five of the CBS experts and SPIN pick Indy to win this game. The only question is whether they cover the spread. If the Colts play true to form, this week for the Bengals could be as bad as last week against the Ravens (34-3).


Around the AFC North . . .

--The Steelers (9-3) face one of their toughest tests so far this year on Sunday, hosting the resurgent Cowboys (8-4). This one could come down to a shootout between quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo. The Steelers are field-goal favorites, again, little more than a tip of the hat for home field advantage. I give the edge to the Steelers, behind the number one ranked defense in the NFL.

--The Browns (4-8) travel to face the Titans (11-1), with the Titans two-touchdown favorites. The Browns are starting a third-string quarterback against a Titans team looking to lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs. If the troubles off the field for the Browns continue to fester and find their way onto the field, Sunday could be a very long day for the Browns.

Enjoy your games this weekend!

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com