My thoughts on all 32 NFL franchises ahead of the chaotic 2021 off-season conclude today with thoughts on the eight teams from NFC south and west divisions.
Any sports fan will know that teams are mainly judged on their record throughout the season as it gives them a fair indication of how they have performed week in week out.
For the Tuesday morning game between Pittsburgh (11-0) and Washington (4-7), it is very easy to get caught in the trap of thinking there is no way such a massive favourite can lose to a far less superior side – it’s understandable.
However, I am going to delve deeper into this match-up by highlighting the reasons why Washington is a very serious chance of winning this football game and giving the Steelers their first loss of the season.
From Washington’s perspective, the obvious difference in the past four weeks has been quarterback Alex Smith’s return from a year-long injury lay-off as a starter which has given the offence a new lease of life where they are able to rely more on their passing game.
Smith has thrown for just over 1,000 yards and completed 69 per cent of his passes in those four games and even if it was against four below-par teams, it has given them a new identity and some much needed solidity.
It isn’t just the quarterback’s return that has made this team more competitive, as I believe they have some quality pieces around Smith to fit the jigsaw nicely such as Terry McLaurin in the wide receiver role and running back Antonio Gibson who is very capable of changing the dynamic of a game.
The defence has also benefited from Alex Smith’s return, as it’s allowed the defence to sit out of games more. In my opinion I think the defensive unit this season has actually been fairly decent and the stats back that up.
They rank fourth in defensive yards allowed (309.5 per game) and rank equal second in sacks completed (36.0 per game), which proves they will have the ability to put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger.
This meeting will not be won by Washington though, it will be lost by Pittsburgh due to the circumstances that surround them coming into this game.
It is an understatement to say the players and coaching staff of the Steelers were angry that their division rival match between the Baltimore Ravens was moved three times to accommodate for multiple Covid cases for the Ravens including their star quarterback and last season’s MVP Lamar Jackson.
The Steelers ultimately prevailed by five points, but it was far from pretty and casted doubts into people’s minds about just how good this Pittsburgh team really is.
After such an emotionally and physically exhausting game against their arch-rival, they are now forced to put those frustrations of the scheduling to one side and focus on the game against Washington.
The is a flat spot for Pittsburgh because not only are they forced to play on a short-week with not much notice, but they also need to look ahead to the following week’s game which is against the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo who hold an 8-3 record and have been playing some impressive football with Josh Allen pulling the strings.
The Steelers will be focusing more on the Buffalo game because they will feel as though that it could be a danger game and put their undefeated streak in jeopardy, which is why I feel this Washington match-up has banana skin written all over it.
It is also worth pointing out that Washington will have 11 days to prepare for the game against the Steelers after their 25-point victory over their division foe in the Dallas Cowboys, which is so important for training practice and focusing on the key areas to take down Pittsburgh where they can.
For betting, Washington are an 8.5 point underdog, but I can see Washington winning this football game and shocking a lot of people who think the Steelers are the real deal. I’m not one of those people on the Steelers bandwagon…Washington are very much a live underdog and can surprise the NFL public.
Who would’ve thought that Washington would be sitting in second place in the NFC East and fighting for top spot with the New York Giants at four wins each going into week 13!? Well, that has become a reality due to one of the worst divisions in NFL history, which now gives them even more motivation to put in a good performance.
Yes, the Steelers have their own motivation to keep the incredible undefeated run going…but we all know that good things must come to an end at some point.
Don’t ever be certain that an 11-0 team will always roll over a 4-7 team because this is the NFL where upsets occur many times. Even if Washington don’t end up winning this match on Tuesday, it is sure to be a close one.