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2016 NFL Week #14

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of Roethlisberger, it was the age of Tyrod. It was the epoch of Brown, it was the epoch of Watkins. It was the season of Playoffs, it was the season of Despair.” – Charles Dickens & Big Phil

Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Two sides of the same coin. A common culture of beer, shuttered steel mills and football. These are two hardworking and hard drinking cities and their love of their football teams is fierce and transcendent. Even more than their love of Polish sausage.

I was raised in Buffalo and its suburbs and, despite moves to Boston and Los Angeles, I still remain faithful to the Buffalo Bills. Before O.J. Simpson decided to become a murderer, he was a great running back. I saw him play in cold and blustery Shea stadium in 1973 as he broke the NFL single-season rushing record. I suffered through four straight Super Bowl losses and still suffer through a playoff drought that may not end this year. And yet, there is always hope.

Pittsburgh is a great town with a great tradition of winning, and through my two years of writing for Steel City Buzz, I’ve developed quite a fondness for the Steelers and, more so, their fans.

So, this week is going to be a tough one for me. I probably should recuse myself from making any predictions, much like the late Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves from Bush v. Gore (the conflicts were many.) But picking a team is quite different than picking a president. But it still requires objectivity and a clear and open mind. And booze.

It’s a heart versus head situation. Or a spleen versus kidney one. Regardless, I am prepared to look at this week’s game with cold dispassionate thinking.

The Steelers at 7-5 are in the hunt, not only as a wildcard team but also as the AFC North champion. Last week’s game against the Giants was a cakewalk, and if you’ve ever walked on cake, it’s kinda messy and squishy and you may want to do it again. The Steelers were firing on all cylinders and the oft-maligned defense played their best game of the year.

The Bills at 6-6 are still in the hunt as well but will need divine intervention, 10,000 rabbits’ feet, a blessing from the Dalai Lama and the complete collapse of Denver and Kansas City in the coming weeks. They are not the masters of their own fate. And they could’ve been. Their mindboggling loss against the evil Raiders, blowing a 24-9 lead, makes this week’s game THE GAME!

Yes, it will be a home game for the Bills. And yes, Sammy Watkins can play with a broken foot. And yes, there will be snow. But hope can only go so far, and so far the Bills don’t match up very well with Pittsburgh’s Pride.

WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL

Good health is a very important thing. That’s why we have Obamacare and Medicare… for now. And the Steelers are as healthy as they’ve ever been this season, with the exception of Javon Hargrave and Shamarko Thomas, who both suffered concussions in the game last Sunday.

If it’s snowy and nasty, look for the Steelers to play a ground/pound/messing around kind of football. LeVeon Bell could be very treacherous in slippery conditions and the Bills run defense has been gouged the last two weeks. If DeAngelo Williams can suit up, all the better.

Roethlisberger is an all-weather QB, so winter conditions shouldn’t have a big impact on his game. Look for quick outs and sideline patterns and a few snowball bombs to A.B.

WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL

Run Bills runs! That’s what these Bills do best. Shady McCoy is having a stellar year and backup Mike Gillislee is no slouch either. They, along with Tyrod Taylor, carved up the Raiders for 212 yards. 212 is also the boiling point for water. Not sure why that’s relevant, but knowledge is power.

And that’s what the Bill will do. Power running with a few tosses to “One Foot” Watkins and “Not So Good” Goodwin.

Weather will dictate whether the Steelers can weather a running attack like this.

PERILOUS PREDICTION

I was hoping that Magic 8-Ball would do his prognosticating for me this week. Not a chance. “M8B” as he likes to be called now, is in Cancun with Mrs. Potato Head for a “big conference.” More likely, Mrs. P.H. is soaking up the sun, getting all brown and baked while M8B rolls around in the sand.

The pressure is really on me and I’m torn. Heart vs. head again. My heart says “Bills” and my head says otherwise. And you really don’t want to hear what my liver says.

Okay, here goes…

FINAL SCORE: STEELERS 20, BILLS 14.

Phil Lebovitz, SCB Steeler Blogger

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