NFL Week 13 reaction: Steelers stay alive, make AFC even more of a mess

Diontae Johnson and the Pittsburgh Steelers
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Ricky Dimon

NFL · 9 months ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

We are only in Week 13 of the NFL season and everyone in the AFC already has at least four losses. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

The Ravens went into Sunday at 8-3 and were -3.5 favorites at Pittsburgh, but they gave up 17 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 20-19 loss. It has been another entertaining week of football – one in which home teams are 5-7 with Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football still to go. And one of the home teams that actually won was… Detroit!

Here is a quick breakdown of what went down on Sunday afternoon and what it could mean moving forward.

Big Ben and the Steelers ain’t done yet

Reports have surfaced suggesting that this is Ben Roethlisberger’s final season in the NFL. It’s hard to think there are any Super Bowls or even playoff games left to be won for Big Ben, but if this is the home stretch then at least he treated the home crowd to one last victory over AFC North rival Baltimore. The 39-year-old tossed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson to complete an improbable comeback on the heels of three quarters full of inept offense.

The Steelers still have an uphill climb to reach the playoffs at 6-5-1 with a remaining schedule of at Minnesota, vs. Tennessee, at Kansas City, vs. Cleveland, and at Baltimore. But they would have been toast if they had fallen to 5-6-1 – which they looked on the way to doing. Now they have life.

As for the Ravens, they are still in decent shape at 8-4 and with three home games remaining plus winnable road dates at Cleveland and Cincinnati. But head coach Jim Harbaugh’s team really let a big one get away on Sunday. And why did he go for two after Baltimore scoring a touchdown with 12 seconds left to get within 20-19? Tony Romo loved the call and I’m generally a fan of aggressive coaching, too. I also understand that you have more reason to play for the win instead of the tie when you’re on the road. But the Ravens are the better team with the better quarterback in Lamar Jackson. I would take my chances with a full overtime period rather than a crapshoot of a two-point conversion all day long.

Congratulations to the Lions… I guess

Commiserations with anyone who had a futures bet on Detroit going winless this season. The door seemed to open when the Lions lost at home to a bad Bears team on Thanksgiving, but victory number one came in a more unexpected location in Minnesota. That’s not to say the Vikings are some kind of juggernaut, but you would have thought that they would beat a 0-10-1 opponent in their own building. Instead, Jared Goff led the Lions on a last-minute drive a threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown on the final play of the game for a 29-27 victory.

I’m happy for the players and for the team dedicating the win to the community of Oxford, Michigan. But Dan Campbell didn’t deserve it at all. He has been an incompetent head coach throughout year one in Detroit and continued to be on Sunday. What was he doing going for it on fourth down on his own 28-yard line while leading with four minutes left? Luckily Goff – and some dreadful play by Minnesota’s defense – bailed him out.

The Chargers are good…I think

I just can’t get a handle on these AFC West teams. And I’ll happily admit it, too, because I doubt anyone else can either. The Chiefs have been up and down (or more like down and up), the Raiders have been all over the place both on and off the field, the Broncos can look like the best team in the league or the worst team in the league on any given day, and the Chargers are similar.

It was the good chargers who showed up this week, shellacking the Bengals in Cincinnati 41-22. I don’t think Los Angeles is consistent enough to make deep run in the playoffs, but I still wouldn’t want to play this team in a lose-and-go-home situation. Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams are just dangerous.

And, most importantly, the Chargers are in the AFC — where anything can happen.

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