Door may be closing for Packers, Steelers

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The term “dynasty” is often thrown around loosely when referring to extended periods of success enjoyed by professional sports franchises or college sports programs. In a narrow sense the term refers to achieving the ultimate goal of winning a championship multiple times during a certain time frame often spanning at least half a decade. 

In a broader sense the term can refer to an extended period of excellence that involves making it to postseason play even if there are a lesser number of championships though almost always there is at least one title. 

We may be witnessing the end of, if not a dynasty or mini-dynasty, at least an era of sustained success. In fact, two such eras may be ending. 

Following last week’s shocking home loss to Arizona the Green Bay Packers unceremoniously fired long time coach Mike McCarthy. Rumored to have been on the proverbial “hot seat” over the past season or two, and thought to be done after this season save a trip to the Playoffs, the late-season firing was a surprise. 

With quarterback Aaron Rodgers battling injuries and no outstanding backup on the roster, the end of the Packers lengthy run of success may be at hand as they will miss the Playoffs for a second straight season with their 4-7-1 current record. 

Ironically, Green Bay’s Super Bowl win came at the expense of the Pittsburgh Steelers, another team with a well entrenched head coach. Mike Tomlin took over as coach following the retirement of Bill Cowher following the Steelers’ win in Super Bowl 40. Although he lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl 45 Tomlin had already won a Super Bowl two seasons earlier, defeating Arizona in Super Bowl 43. 

But what may be a decline in Pittsburgh’s era of success – 12 Playoff appearances since 2001 heading into this season – it may be more due to what appear to be the significantly diminishing skills of another future Hall of Fame QB, Ben Roethlisberger.  

Seemingly in the latter stages of his career, Big Ben had talked about retirement several times in recent seasons and perhaps subconsciously his play and/or off-season workout regimens, may have been affected. The Steelers still lead the AFC North by a half-game over Baltimore and thus control their own destiny. But their window is closing and their does not appear to be an equally talented heir apparent on the current roster.

Thursday

Jaguars (+4.5) at Titans (Over/Under 37.5): Jacksonville’s defense finally showed some resemblance to the unit that propelled the team to last season’s AFC Title game in its 6-0 win over Indianapolis. But at 4-8 the Jags are reduced to playing spoiler over their final four games. JAGUARS 

Sunday

Ravens (+6.5) at Chiefs (53): Both teams are currently in the Playoffs and control their own destinies. The Ravens have regained their early-season form and have rushed for over 200 yards in each of their last three games, all with rookie QB Lamar Jackson. RAVENS 

Colts (+4.5) at Texans (48.5): The Colts had won five straight prior to their 6-0 loss last week at Jacksonville. We often see a loss that ends a lengthy winning streak by an average to below-average team repeated in its next outing. None of Indy’s five wins was against a team that currently has a winning record. TEXANS

Panthers (-1) at Browns (47): In losing 24-17 at Tampa last week Carolina had a total yardage edge of 444-315 and a yards per play edge of 6.8-5.3 as QB Cam Newton’s four interceptions proved costly. In fact, the Panthers have had a yards per play edge of 1.0 or more versus seven of its last right opponents, which makes this a cheap price to lay for a team still with a chance to make the Playoffs at 6-6. PANTHERS

Falcons (+6) at Packers (49): Both teams are all but mathematically out of the Playoffs chase with each having won just four of their 12 games to date. The firing of McCarthy might provide a short-term boost to the Pack but the real issue for the lack of success may be that Rodgers has not overcome the injury he suffered in Week 1 against the Bears. FALCONS 

Saints (-8) at Buccaneers (56): The Saints have extra rest after losing last Thursday at Dallas, a loss that ended the 9 game winning streak that started following their upset home loss to the Bucs to open the season which makes this a revenge spot for the Saints, who could reclaim the top seed in the NFC with a win here and a potential Rams loss Sunday night in Chicago. SAINTS 

Jets (+3.5) at Bills (38): A month ago, the Bills embarrassed the Jets in a 41-10 road win, both rushing and passing for over 200 yards while holding the Jets to just 199 total yards. Both rookie starting QBs did not play in that first meeting due to injury but both are expected to play here. JETS 

Patriots (-7.5) at Dolphins (47.5): It’s December and that’s when the Pats generally play their best as they gear up for the Playoffs. They’re healthy and won the first meeting 38-7 with a total yardage edge of 449-172. PATRIOTS 

Rams (-3) at Bears (52.5): Flexed to Sunday night, this matchup of Division leaders could be a forerunner of a Playoffs matchup. The colder and windier the conditions the more favorable the spot is for the hosts. Prior to holding Detroit to 16 points last week the Rams had allowed between 27 and 51 points to four straight foes. BEARS

Giants (-3.5) at Redskins (41.5): Injuries continue to decimate the Redskins who will now start Mark Sanchez at QB who was signed just a couple of weeks ago.  Just a game behind Dallas, this is a critical game for Washington which returns home following a pair of divisional road games with a pair of non-divisional road games up next. After a 1-3 start the Giants have won 3 of 4 but their defense has been shaky all season, not holding a single foe to under 20 points. REDSKINS

Broncos (-5.5) at 49ers (44.5): Denver has won three straight, each by an increasing margin whereas the 49ers have lost three straight, each also by an increasing margin. BRONCOS 

Bengals (+14) at Chargers (48): After starting 4-1 the Bengals have lost six of seven with four of the last five losses by at least 14 points. With their starting QB and star WR both out for the season scoring points may be tough. UNDER 

Lions (-2.5) at Cardinals (40.5): Detroit takes to the road after three straight home games, the last two of which were losses. Arizona returns home after two straight road games, including last week’s 20-17 upset win at Green Bay. After failing to run for 95 yards in any of their first nine games, the Cardinals have rushed for 154 and 182 in two of the last three. CARDINALS 

Eagles (+3.5) at Cowboys (44): Dallas has won and covered four straight, beginning with their upset in Philly as 7.5-point underdogs. Now Dallas is favored by more than a FG and that line adjustment of 11.5 points will attract the attention of those who play numbers. But the adjustment is justified as the trade for WR Amari Cooper has made the Dallas offensive much more effective which has also resulted in outstanding play by the defense. Note that the Eagles have allowed over 100 rushing yards to six of their last seven foes after holding their first five opponents to under 80. COWBOYS

Steelers (-11) at Raiders (51.5): Since routing Carolina 52-21 a month ago, Pittsburgh’s level of play has declined markedly. Fortunate to even be 1-2 since, QB Ben Roethlisberger has not been sharp and the absence of RB Le’Veon Bell may finally be felt as the Steelers have rushed for just 26, 75 and 65 yards. The Raiders have played hard the past few weeks and were very competitive in last week’s loss to the Chiefs. RAIDERS  

Monday

Vikings (+3.5) at Seahawks (45): Both teams currently hold the NFC Wild Card and that appears to be the only route to the Playoffs for each. Both teams defeated Green Bay within the last month, each winning at home in back-to-back weeks. The Vikes were more impressive, with a yards per play edge of 1.0 whereas the Seahawks had a 2.0 ypp deficit. The hook might come into play although Minnesota is certainly capable of the SU road win. VIKINGS

Last week: 7-9

Season: 93-95-4

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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