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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 29 January, 2020

The Redzone: Is time tolling for Big Ben?

There’s no skirting around the issue, Roethlisberger has been just terrible this season. So, what’s going on?

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, right, stands by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, right, stands by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Image: Michael Conroy/AP/Press Association Images

THIS IS A week in the AFC in particular where a number of 2-1 teams face off in what could be a dress rehearsal for the playoffs. Steven O’Rourke guides us through the match-ups.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) @ Houston Texans (2-1)

There’s no skirting around the issue, Ben Roethlisberger has been just terrible this season. If any other quarterback had Big Ben’s stats through three games – four interceptions, four fumbles and just three touchdowns – there’d be a lot of fans calling for him to be dropped.

The problem for the Steelers is they don’t really have that option. As bad as Roethlisberger has been, are they really expected to turn to 36-year-old Charlie Batch or 26-year-old Dennis Dixon?

So where has it all gone wrong last year’s AFC Champions?

The obvious place to start is on the offensive line. The Steelers O-Line has never been very good but Roethlisberger and running back Rashard Mendenhall always managed to find a way to put points on the board.

This year, however, they rank 26th in scoring with just 18 points a game. Contrast that to the Houston Texans whose 30 points per game sees them ranked seventh in scoring.

What’s more ominous for Pittsburgh is that the Texans have racked up most of those points without their marquee running back Arian Foster. However, Foster is back this weekend and that should guarantee the Texans put on a show in Reliant Stadium.

Verdict: Before the season started I predicted the Texans would make the playoffs and the Steelers wouldn’t, I’ve seen nothing so far to change that opinion. Texans by 13+.

New England Patriots (2-1) @ Oakland Raiders (2-1)

I’m hearing it over and over again this week. Sure, the Raiders have the number one rushing attack in the NFL but the Patriots are ranked in the top ten against the run so there’s no way McFadden and company will be able to ‘run the rock’ on New England.

What that view doesn’t take into account though is that nobody has really tried to run the ball against New England. When I first started looking at football, teams used to run first to set up the passing game, now every team appears to be copying the Patriots and passing first to set up the running game.

Every team, that is, except the Oakland Raiders.  Averaging over 30 points a game is very impressive for a team with, at best, a mediocre quarterback. If McFadden can run with the same inspiration he showed against the Jets last week, the Raiders should have more than enough for the Patriots.

Verdict: It is five years since the Patriots lost two games in a row. Records are there to be broken. Oakland by 3+

New York Jets (2-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

Revenge is in the air in Baltimore as Rex Ryan looks for his Jets team to bounce back from last week’s loss to the Raiders and get a win against a Ravens team that chose to overlook him as head coach three years ago.

However, New York go into the game hamstrung by Mark Sanchez’s broken nose and missing their centre Nick Mangold to ankle injury for the second straight week. If things aren’t right under centre, this could be a long afternoon for Jets fans.

That depends, of course, on which Ravens team turns up. Will it be the one that blew out the Steelers and Rams or the one that was humiliated by the Titans?  One thing’s for sure, Ray Rice fantasy owners will be licking their lips.

Verdict: Home field advantage will be key in what should be a very close game. Ravens by 6+.

All fixtures and predictions

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys – Detroit
Carolina Panthers @ Chicago Bears – Chicago
Buffalo Bills @ Cincinnati Bengals – Buffalo
Tennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns – Cleveland
Minnesota Vikings @ Kansas City Chiefs – Minnesota
Washington Redskins @ St. Louis Rams – Washington
New Orleans Saints @ Jacksonville Jaguars – New Orleans
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans – Houston
San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles – Philadelphia
New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals – Arizona
Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks – Atlanta
Miami Dolphins @ San Diego Chargers – San Diego
New England Patriots @ Oakland Raiders – Oakland
Denver Broncos @ Green Bay Packers – Green Bay
New York Jets @ Baltimore Ravens    – Baltimore
Indianapolis Colts @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tampa Bay

  • Steven O’Rourke is the Offensive Co-ordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011. Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

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Steven O'Rourke

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