BAD BATCH: Third-string quarterback Charlie Batch played about as well as, well, a third-string quarterback. Photo courtesy Jason Miller/Getty Images

A fumble. A blown call. A clutch touchdown. Every week the action in the NFL forces the headlines around the league to change. To evolve. A cold team becomes a hot team. A hot team slips up. Someone one is one game closer to the playoffs and someone is one game closer to their season being over. These are the weekly notes on the trends and other happenings from around the league after every weekend.

Pittsburgh’s in Trouble

For real.

That is the one undeniable fact you can take away from the Steelers following these last two consecutive losses. They clearly need Big Ben to win and he’s not coming back any time soon.

How in trouble are they? We’re talking about missing the playoffs, something they’ve done only three times since the turn of the century.

The Colts are 7-4, so at 6-5 Pittsburgh is already the second Wild Card team. Their division rivals, the Bengals, are also 6-5 and the Dolphins are just a game behind at 5-6. With five games to go, you can’t rule out the 4-7 Jets, Bills, Titans, and Chargers, either.

And the road ahead for the Steelers? They have to play Baltimore IN Maryland next week. Does anyone have even a shred of confidence they can win that game right now? So let’s say they’re 6-6 and have to go at least 3-1 down the stretch just to have a shot. Maybe even win out. From there, the final four weeks are home against San Diego, on the road at the Cowboys, and home against Cincinnati and Cleveland. They already lost to Cleveland, so that, by no means, is a surefire victory, they edged Cincy by 7 with Roethlisberger under helm, and the Cowboys and Chargers are in must-win mode.

Now, Roethlisberger says he’s “going to try” to come back for this week’s game. If not, you figure the odds of his return go up every week from there on out. But simply just getting Big Ben back isn’t the problem. The Steelers have to find a way to keep him upright and to keep his jersey clean.

You almost hope Ben DOESN’T play this Sunday and he avoids a Ravens defense that launched themselves at the Steelers offense like they were tackling dummies.

Maybe Roethlisberger does come back quickly and maybe the Steelers do win their last three or four games. But Pittsburgh has some serious question marks circulating around the locker room right now and those teams competing AGAINST them for that same Wild Card spot, for the most part, have they questions all answered.


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About Last Night: MNF Must-Win Night Football

Did you catch the Lame-Duck-Head-Coach Bowl last night? It was actually a pretty good game. Okay, well, as a game as you could have between two teams with a combined five wins.

While the Panthers win probably ensures Ron Rivera will stick around a few more weeks if not until the end of the season, the Eagles loss only reinforces my thoughts on the matter of Andy Reid. In fact, at the time of this writing, I feel the need to keep checking the news outlets for word of his firing.

His departure is imminent. Of this there is no denying. They were thrashed by a reeling Redskins team, that had an extended week to prepare for a game against a TWO-WIN team AT HOME, and they couldn’t get it done. There is an institutional lack of everything with this club. Motivation. Discipline. Control. Synergy. You name it, the Eagles don’t have it.

Like I said last week, I don’t believe Andy Reid is the bearer of all the blame and usually I’m not a supporter of firing head coaches (or any coaches, for that matter) mid-season, but this case here is the exception to the rule.

On the plus side, Bryce Brown spent the better part of 60 minutes proving my main point for me, which is that this club has gotten fat on overpaid, overrated talent. You can’t build a dream team in today’s NFL. Even if you can swing it financially somehow, there’s no guarantee of it working.

Of all the big name, big contract players strapping on the winged helmet last night, the player of the game was a seventh-round rookie earning just $390,000 a year. As far as the NFL goes, that’s pretty much minimum wage.

Don’t Run With Washington Just Yet

I’m somewhat mystified by the newfound faith of the world of sports pundits in the Washington Redskins. Three weeks ago, there was a line around the corner of broadcasters and journalists chomping at the bit to get in a zinger on Mike Shananahan’s “evaluation mode” sound bite. Now, after two wins, the almighty Peter King gives the Redskins the best shot of any 5-6 squad in the NFC to clinch a Wild Card. What gives?

First off, let’s stop acting like these wins were impressive. Their impressiveness doesn’t stretch any farther than the notion that a 3-6 team seemingly on the ropes strung together consecutive victories. But it wasn’t like it was the Texans and Falcons they downed. This was the Eagles and Cowboys. Everyone who wasn’t wearing hunter green knew full well Philadelphia was in worse shape than the Redskins were. And as for Dallas? Sure, Washington was pumped up after marching into Jerryland and beating the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but this Dallas team had to go to overtime with Cleveland. The Browns!

There’s no denying that RG3 is an unthinkably talented and dynamic player that gives Washington a chance to win ANY football game, but the fact of the matter is the Redskins still probably have to go at least 4-1 from here if not win outright altogether. The next two games are against the 7-4 Giants and 9-2 Ravens. If you’re waiting for me to hop on the Washington bandwagon, come see me in a couple weeks.


Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

About Last Night Pt. 2: Tennessee Two-Step

Somehow lost in what was admittedly an exciting game between postseason-eliminated teams was the fact that the Titans fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. I know, shocking news that was definitely worthy of the massive Breaking News banner that stretched across late last night (did my sarcasm translate through?). More than anything, the move really begs the question, “Huh?”

Don’t get me wrong, the firing wasn’t necessarily unjustified. But THAT’S where you start the head-chopping, Tennessee?

Explain to me this: how did Palmer play into your team, on the cusp of a Wild Card race, giving up 24 points to the impotent Jaguars? Did you SEE that game? The Titans made Chad Henne and Cecil Shorts look like Tom Brady and Wes Welker. Even Justin Blackmon didn’t look like a total bust for once.

To me, the move kind of looked like this: imagine the Redskins didn’t stop the bleeding Thanksgiving afternoon and the Cowboys came all the way back to win that game. Now, imagine Mike Shanahan fired his son, Kyle, the offensive coordinator instead of Jim Haslett whose defense has been consistently porous.

Mike Munchak said he made the move because the offense wasn’t coming along as he had hoped. Again, all I could think was, “and the defense has?” I’m not saying the Titans defense is the only problem. No, I’m well aware that this franchise, as a whole, is in pretty bad shape. And, actually, that’s kind of my point. Why is Tennessee two-stepping around their wide swath of problems with little, surgical management changes?

NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure you give him a follow @bclienesch for NFL updates and other shenanigans.