Bengals-Steelers: Stakes are high; Packers tabbed for first loss

Sunday’s Heinz Field invasion of the Cincinnati Bengals did not figure to present a major challenge for the Steelers in early September.

Some 13 weeks later, this is all but a must-win for both teams. Pittsburgh, at 8-3, is fighting to keep pace with a Ravens’ club which should have it relatively easy on the lakefront this weekend.

The Bengals are solid contenders for a wild card but probably need three wins in their final five starts to make it happen.

On the NFC front, Green Bay’s remaining schedule appears conducive for a potential 16-0 finish. While we’re tabbing New York’s Giants to dismiss that notion, the Packers play three of their final four regular season games at Lambeau Field. Thus, Sunday’s road test may be the only remaining obstacle confronting Aaron Rogers and company.

This column celebrated Thanksgiving Weekend with a 13-3 outcome. Upon further review:


PHILADELPHIA AT SEATTLE. Look out below for the many bird droppings emulating from this NFL Network production starring two 4-7 teams. Seahawks, 20-17.


INDIANAPOLIS AT NEW ENGLAND. Pats can’t be expected to be fully focused for this likely snoozer. Patriots, 30-13.

OAKLAND AT MIAMI. Though this will be considered an upset, I can’t see Raiders pulling away in AFC West. Dolphins, 24-21.

CAROLINA AT TAMPA BAY. Defense may take the day off…along with a few thousand fans opting for holiday shopping. Bucs, 28-20.

NEW YORK JETS AT WASHINGTON. Jets have little choice but to embark on a December roll. Their postseason fate remains uncertain. Jets 21-14.

TENNESSEE AT BUFFALO. A loss here all but ends playoff hopes for one of these two AFC combatants. Bills, 30-17.

CINCINNATI AT PITTSBURGH. Should Steelers have all weapons at their disposal, only two or three turnovers deters their chances. Steelers, 27-17.

KANSAS CITY AT CHICAGO. It’s back on track week for Monsters of Midway who should prevail with relative ease. Bears, 23-10.

DENVER AT MINNESOTA. He’s no Elway but Tim Tebow must be doing something right. Which includes finding another way to win. Broncos, 17-14.

ATLANTA AT HOUSTON. Perhaps the weekend’s most intriguing matchup of potential playoff qualifiers. Falcons, 28-24.

BALTIMORE AT CLEVELAND. It’ll be interesting to see how much fight 4-7 Browns have left in them. Particularly against a clearly superior opponent. Ravens, 27-13.

GREEN BAY AT NEW YORK GIANTS. Pack has 16-0 perfect regular season squarely in their sights. G-Men obviously need above and beyond the call effort. Upset Special. Giants, 31-20.

DALLAS AT ARIZONA. Just when it appeared Cowboys were about to take charge in AFC East. Cardinals, 35-31.

ST. LOUIS AT SAN FRANCISCIO. Niners have enjoyed long layoff since Thanksgiving loss to Baltimore. They’ll make Rams pay for it. 49ers, 26-7.


DETROIT AT NEW ORLEANS. Now 7-4 Lions in search of missing mojo. Superdome isn’t the place to rediscover it. Saints, 23-21.


SAN DIEGO AT JACKSONVILLE. Good night to have the TV remote handy in this early battle for draft day positioning. Jaguars, 20-16.

LAST WEEK (13-3). SEASON (108-67). UPSET SPECIALS (2-9).

Gibson may be reached at