By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — This will surely get dismissed as some bitter Bostonian casting aspersions on other city’s success, but I nevertheless must speak my truth and say this.
The 11-0 Pittsburgh Steelers?
They’re not bad, surely. They’re good. They’re probably the second-best team in the AFC and they’re definitely a top-five team in the NFL. There’s no doubt about that.
It’s just that, as a team rounds the corner into December with an 11-0 record, staring a potential undefeated regular season in the face, aren’t they supposed to be … impressive?
The Steelers have certainly handled their business this year. Better than anyone else, in fact. They’ve managed to avoid slip-ups. They haven’t had any no-shows in a strange season where all of the top teams have at least one bad loss on their résumés. For that, if the Steelers can continue to handle their business, they’ll be rewarded with the lone first-round bye in the AFC. Style points are not required for that.
It’s just that of the Steelers’ 11 victories, six have come by a touchdown or less. Playing a Ravens team that didn’t have their quarterback or running backs, they only won by five points on Wednesday. Ben Roethlisberger threw about 600 passes for a total of 266 yards in that one. It was … kind of a gross football game.
You can only play the teams on your schedule, sure, but among division leaders, their strength of victory (.413) is lower than the Titans (.455), Seahawks (.438), Saints (.422), Chiefs (.420), and Packers (.420). Four more current playoff teams — the Rams, Cardinals, Buccaneers and Colts — have a higher strength of victory. Given the lower level of competition, shouldn’t they be winning a bit more convincingly?
The Steelers have a plus-129 point differential, which is just 19 points better than the second-best team, the Chiefs. The Saints are third at plus-101.
Compare that with the 2007 Patriots, the only team to finish a season 16-0. They had a ridiculous point differential of plus-315. Through 11 weeks, that point differential was plus-257.
In that same season, the Colts lost three games … but still finished the year with a plus-188 point differential. Through 11 weeks, they were 9-2 but had a plus-137 point differential — better than the Steelers’ current plus-129.
Perhaps setting the bar at the 2007 Patriots is too high, though. The 2011 Packers, 2015 Panthers, 2009 Colts and 2005 Colts weren’t quite that dominant when they had their flirtations with perfection. The 15-1 Steelers in 2004 only had a plus-121 point differential. To find some really jaw-dropping point differentials, you’d have to go back to the ’98 Vikings, who outscored opponents by 260 points in their 15-1 season. The ’99 Rams were monsters, too.
Point is, I guess, that not every team that dances with perfection is dominant or even overly impressive. In that sense, let’s hope the Steelers drop a game or two between now and the new year. None of us want to be asked by our grandkids about the undefeated Steelers of 2020, only to tell those wide-eyed youngsters, “Eh. They were fine I guess.”
And really, in terms of things we want to remember about 2020, we should probably focus on the bad things anyway. And fortunately, we’ve got the New York Jets for that.
This is just one man’s opinion, boys and girls. But I think the New York Jets are BAD. They’re 0-11. They’ve been outscored by 170 points, which comes out to an average of more than 15 points every week. They’ve played in three games that were really competitive. And their final five games are all against teams that are either currently in the playoffs or are on the fringe.
An 0-16 season seems almost inevitable.
So in that sense, maybe we should all be rooting for perfection on opposite ends of the NFL spectrum. A 16-0 team and an 0-16 team just feels right in 2020, doesn’t it?
(Home team in CAPS; Thursday lines)
Last week I shared how dreadful I had been at picks, and I vowed to keep my stupid mouth shut until I proved myself worthy of commenting on NFL games again.
I ended up going 13-3.
That is damn good.
I freaking ROCK, people!
Still. I’ve only gotten my season record back to .500. That’s good … but not good enough to bring back the commentary. So it’s nothing but quick hitters here for Week 13.
New Orleans (-2.5) over ATLANTA
CHICAGO (-3) over Detroit
What an absolute slap in the face to the Bears! They deserve it, of course. But ouch.
OK, back to being quiet.
Cleveland (+6) over TENNESSEE
MIAMI (-11.5) over Cincinnati
MINNESOTA (-10.5) over Jacksonville
Las Vegas (-8.5) over NEW YORK JETS
HOUSTON (+3.5) over Indianapolis
L.A. Rams (-2.5) over ARIZONA
SEATTLE (-10) over New York Giants
GREEN BAY (-8) over Philadelphia
That pick bugs me, because you have to pick Green Bay. But the Packers have really mucked it up with some bad teams this year, losing at home to the Vikings and needing a fourth-quarter comeback against the Jaguars. The Colts aren’t a bad team, but that was a dreadful showing from the Packers, too.
Knowing how weird they’ve been, they’ll probably end up in a tooth-and-nail battle against the awful Eagles for no reason. Alas, you cannot make that pick. Sad.
L.A. Chargers (+1) over New England
I’m all over the place with this one, but the Chargers are the best 3-8 team in NFL history. I stand by that.
KANSAS CITY (-14) over Denver
Did you all see the defense of Drew Lock written by … Drew Lock’s mom?!?!?! Oh no!!! Drew Lock, please ask your mom to not write any more defenses of Drew Lock!! You are in the NFL, sir! SIR!
Washington (+9.5) over PITTSBURGH
Buffalo (-1.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
Dallas (+7) over BALTIMORE
Last week: 13-3