Bengals, Steelers battle for playoffs

Surprise, surprise: The AFC North Division is going down to the wire.

So crazy is the postseason scenario, Pittsburgh’s stumbling Steelers remain alive to win the AFC North. How is this possible?

But it’s not out of the question considering the Black & Gold host Cincinnati and Cleveland in weeks 16 and 17. Pittsburgh, at 7-7, will be favored in both division showdowns.

Baltimore, resembling anything lately but a playoff contender, greets the New York Giants this weekend, then closes at Cincinnati. And don’t count out the surging Bengals who are on a late-season roll.

Despite a 12-2 record, Atlanta’s Falcons have earned little respect among NFL ‘experts’ who seem to prefer a Green Bay-San Francisco matchup for an NFC title.

Ditto Houston’s 12-2 Texans, currently playing second fiddle to the Broncos and Patriots in the AFC. At 5-9, the Browns appear to be staring at a 5-11 season, playing Sunday in Denver followed by the week 17 visit to Heinz Field.

Last week, we rebounded from a 7-9 outing to go 12-4 though our upset special call (Buffalo over Seattle) didn’t exactly pan out.


ATLANTA AT DETROIT. Matt Ryan and Falcons still seeking respect and should be fired-up for this nationally-televised game. FALCONS, 34-26.


SAN DIEGO AT NEW YORK JETS. Rex Ryan’s club figures to be mentally drained after being eliminated from playoff consideration at Tennessee. CHARGERS, 27-17.

WASHINGTON AT PHILADELPHIA. All the pressure’s on RG III and Redskins which may work against them. In a close outcome: REDSKINS, 20-17.

CINCINNATI AT PITTSBURGH. No guarantee Black & Gold get well – even at Heinz Field. Still, we can’t see Big Ben at controls of total collapse. STEELERS, 21-17.

OAKLAND AT CAROLINA. Cam Newton and teammates should take out a frustrating season on the 4-10 Raiders. PANTHERS, 27-7.

NEW ENGLAND AT JACKSONVILLE. May be difficult for Brady and Pats to find inspiration against lowly 2-12 Jags. PATRIOTS, 31-17.

ST. LOUIS AT TAMPA BAY.Bucs have been reeling but should take care of business at home. BUCS, 24-20.

BUFFALO AT MIAMI. Fish prevail in battle for AFC East cellar. DOLPHINS, 33-27.

TENNESSEE AT GREEN BAY. Pack should be able to name score on the frozen tundra. PACKERS, 35-14.

INDIANAPOLIS AT KANSAS CITY. Expect Andrew Luck to bounce back from setback against Houston. COLTS, 20-10.

MINNESOTA AT HOUSTON. One of the weekend’s most anticipated matchups featuring Vikes’ Adrian Peterson vs. Houston’s defense. TEXANS, 31-24.

NEW ORLEANS AT DALLAS. Another all-or-nothing outing for Cowboys who we see coming in second in our Upset Special. SAINTS, 30-20.

CLEVELAND AT DENVER. Knocking off Peyton Manning in the Mile High City seems too much to ask of Brownies who likely keeps it close before falling. BRONCOS, 27-21.

NEW YORK GIANTS AT BALTIMORE. Call this the “Belly-Up Bowl” with loser coming closer to staying home in January. RAVENS, 17-14.


SAN FRANCISCO AT SEATTLE. Should be entertaining affair in the Emerald City. A huge test for Seattle QB Russell Wilson. 49ERS, 24-21.

LAST WEEK: 12-4. SEASON: 135-84. UPSET SPECIALS: 3-12.

Gibson may be reached at