Potential for serious damage right there (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
I don't know about any of you, but something isn't quite right around here.
The New England Patriots are heading to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in what promises to be one of their toughest, if not the toughest, tests of the season. Pittsburgh is red hot right now, riding a 3 game winning streak and boasting one of the league's top defenses. Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace seem to be connecting for a 60+ yard TD play every game, Rashard Mendenhall is starting to rediscover his legs, and Troy Polamalu and his Head-and-Shoulders-preened locks are wreaking their usual havoc. Heinz field is a hostile environment jammed full of screaming, towel waving maniacs, some of whom would likely saw off their own feet if it guaranteed their city Lombardi Trophy number 7. Sunday is going to be an absolute war.
Yet for some reason, nobody seems all that concerned.
Obviously, the Patriots players are all saying the right things. Bill Belichick has done his traditional epic boast about how these Steelers are the greatest team of any era and New England is faced with the borderline impossible task of defeating them. You have your fair share of articles breaking down matchups and illustrating how what we'll see this Sunday is a clash between two powerhouses of the AFC.
But that's not entirely right, is it?
In spite of any attempts at impartiality, all I've really been hearing and reading all week is how Tommy B owns the Steelers, how the Patriots have their number, how Brady is 6-1 all-time against Pitt and the last time that the Pats lost to them was Halloween 2003 (sure am glad they pointed that out). Bill Belichick is 8-0 coming off the bye in recent years and knows exactly how to neutralize Pittsburgh's linebackers by spreading the field and forcing them into coverage. After all-it's only the Steelers. Ho hum. This one should be a cakewalk.
Of all the weeks to get lackadaisical, this one isn't it. I'm not a fan of this pervasive undertone that New England is basically playing in a scrimmage against the JV squad this week rather than travelling to an extremely hostile field to play a damn good team.
Hell, it's even starting to affect me. Usually around this time of the week I start to get a little antsy, reading expert analyses and scouring the opposing team's injury reports in hopes that someone got severely hurt during their last practice. I start paying attention to body language during player interviews and overthinking any little detail that might sway the game in New England's favor. But this week? Not so much. I find myself buying into the hype that the Patriots simply have the formula for beating the Steelers and are likely to come out on top yet again, and I'm disgusted with myself as a result.
Maybe it's just me. Anyone who reads my
crap column on the regular knows how I feel about jinxes, and this week is just reeking with them. Luckily for me, there is no better coach in the NFL than Bill Belichick at keeping the media influence out of the locker room and making sure his players stay focused. But I can't remember the last time so many people have been so confident heading into what is likely to be a very close game that could easily become New England's second loss of the season. But maybe I'm just over-reacting.
Put me at ease, people. Am I just being paranoid here, or does the Jinx Factor seem to be at an all-time high?