Steelers in good shape despite loss

Historically, the Ravens have struggled going into Pittsburgh. So, as poor as their track record in Pittsburgh is, getting a win against an unbeaten Pittsburgh team is a large step for them.

This win could mean the difference between having a good year or a great year. Psychologically, this win was a huge hurdle for the Ravens.

For Pittsburgh, this loss doesn’t really hurt them. For the Steelers to be 3-1 without Ben Roethlisberger, Sunday’s loss is not a major setback. I will say that both of these teams, as well as they play defense, they will be in the mix until the very end.

The Steelers have really impressed me with the way they are playing defense right now. I mean, they did play well enough to win most games today, losing only in the final seconds. You add Roethlisberger to their offensive firepower, and if everybody stays healthy, I have to say the Steelers can be as strong as any team in the NFL.

Big Ben returns this week, and I do not expect any rustiness with him. He’s going to report in shape. We are talking about an experienced veteran. This is not like some young guy who has missed a lot of time. I don’t see him missing a step. And we all know how talented he is.

The Ravens spent the offseason adding these offensive weapons, but it hasn’t translated yet to the field or to the scoreboard. It is so important for them to protect the football that at times they really look conservative on offense. But that’s their style. In their mind, they have to win with special teams, defense and not turning the ball over.

So, the Ravens may never look real flashy. They are going to win games at the end like they did today, hanging tough on defense, playing the clock and making a big play when it counts.


Sanchez, LT surprise


The biggest surprise to me is how well Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is playing. Going into the season, we all knew the Jets were going to play outstanding defense. And their defense gives them great field position and gives them turnovers. But, offensively, Sanchez and LaDainian Tomlinson have looked great thus far. Their performances have really surprised me.

Tomlinson has lost weight, maybe 15 pounds, and he is re-energized both mentally and physically with his new surroundings. He seems to love New York, and his play has been outstanding. A lot of people out here on the West Coast really thought he was at the end of his career. He looks to have a lot of miles left on those legs.

After a poor start in that opening game against Baltimore, Sanchez has bounced back and played extremely well. He’s been putting the ball in the end zone. I think he’s thrown eight touchdowns against zero interceptions in these three wins, all of them division wins. I know Buffalo is a struggling team, but it isn’t easy to go up there and win in Buffalo.

This could end up being a great season for Sanchez. This week, he gets Santonio Holmes back from suspension, and that will give him another deep threat. Holmes is a super receiver.

Plus, the defense will be getting Darrelle Revis back pretty soon. All of a sudden, the Jets may make Rex Ryan look like Nostradamus.


Concern about Saints


A lot of people are concerned about the Saints. Yes, that was a tough win at home against the Panthers, but they are beat up offensively and they still managed a time of possession edge of 17 minutes Sunday.

People are better prepared to play against their offensive system, plus they haven’t had Reggie Bush for two games and were without Pierre Thomas, their best running back, Sunday. So, they haven’t been as effective offensively, especially scoring a lot of points. The other thing is last season the Saints’ defense got so many turnovers and actually scored a lot. That it isn’t happening thus far. Last year, they were always putting Drew Brees in great field position.

The defense hasn’t been effective, and they are not stopping people as consistently either. So, it’s been a struggle for them. They had a magical season last year, but they are still a good football team. They just haven’t been as impressive as they were a year ago.

I believe this happens in the NFL because, in the offseason, teams around the league do study the successful teams. They spend their time, especially if a team like the Saints is on their schedules, studying the best team’s offensive and defensive systems. Not only do you do that, but you also check to see who played them well and how they went about it. So when the week comes to play them, you already have had a full offseason in preparing for them and knowing what is the best way to play them.

That’s why the Panthers hung in against the Saints today right to the end with a rookie quarterback. Carolina was prepared. The Panthers simply didn’t have enough firepower once Steve Smith left the game to pull off the upset.


49ers better than record


San Francisco is the best 0-4 team I have ever seen. The 49ers do play hard. They have been down to the wire now in a couple of games against two very good teams in the Saints and now the Falcons.

Now, I still think they are going to win some games and have a decent year, but they really have gotten behind the 8 ball. They are a decent team. If I was coaching right now, I wouldn’t want to play them.

They are fortunate to be playing in one of the worst divisions in the NFL. The NFC West has been this way for years now. As poor as some of the teams are in that division, anybody could still win it. The Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks are all 2-2.

I know I just said that the 49ers are 0-4, but maybe they won’t be simply building toward next year. The 49ers could get hot and still have a shot at winning it. I know Mike Singletary has to be thinking that Sunday. The three teams ahead of them all have holes. All the 49ers have to do is sweep them. I do think they have a chance of doing exactly that.