Next up, a wobbly tour through the “other” conference, the AFC. The one that provides asylum for undead owners. The Magic Carpet is already wafting over the NFC North, so we’ll save some breeze and take a glommer at the AFC North while we’re here.
Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and what-are-they-doing-here Baltimore. You gotta love the twisted and evil minds of the NFL powers that be for sticking the Ravens into this all Ohio blue collar barroom fight conference. I know, Pittsburgh is in Pennsylvania, but only by sixty miles or less. Closer to Ohio than to Philadelphia. If the Ohio River changes course a wee bit …
The Ravens original owner was, of course, the infamous dirtbag Art Modell, who uprooted NFL history by sneaking the team out of Cleveland in the 90’s, ensuring he would be a hated man in that town forever. And you just know the NFL put the Ravens into this conference to thoroughly milk the bitter blood. Baltimore should be in the AFC East, Miami in the AFC South, and Indianapolis in the AFC North. But I digress.
The Bengals are far more interesting than their city. No one would argue that. They lead the league each year in mug shot photos and have the NFL’s most clever Twitter Tweeter in Chad Ochocinco. Chad is everything T.O. failed to accomplish. Their coach, Marvin Lewis, gives tryouts to more rehab candidates than even Mike Singletary. The team is pretty good, winning the division last year while pooping out down the stretch and on into a one and done playoff trip.
But, when not being awful for ten years at a time, they always seem to come up short. It’s the geography. Cleveland is up in the top corner with a big ass famous old lake cuddled up to it, and Cincinnati is down in a far west corner close enough to Indianapolis to wish they were the Colts, but even closer to Kentucky where they can start a moonshine business and get into trouble. They’ll be in a two horse race with the Ravens again this year, nevertheless.
Cleveland was a great franchise in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, surfaced briefly during the ’80’s, but has been burnt toast for the past 25 years. The best thing about Cleveland these days is that it isn’t Buffalo and it’s not Toledo. It’s not a contender this year, either. Mike Holmgren is the latest in a long line of saviors to huff into town promising redemption. Holmgren, like Shanahan, is another guy the “49er fans who don’t like Singletary” wished had been hired instead. So there is some local interest to his fate in Cleveland. This opinionizer tends to think there will be a profoundly loud thud occurring at the top of Ohio some five years in the future as the “Big Show” falls flat on his face. But with a very lucrative retirement smile hiding under his walrus mask.
Pittsburgh crapped out like wimps last year, emulating that town’s baseball team. All that tough guy bluster just a gas bag in the wind. SB hero Santonio Holmes has managed to go from the penthouse to the shit house, staggering down the same road as Plaxico Burress and about as quickly. He was dumped to the Jets in the off season and then suspended four games for the old substance abuse tag, evicted from an airplane for being a jerk, and still has some court matters pending. While the Steelers were biting that bullet, their star QB, Ben Roethlisberger, was finishing up a groping, allegedly rape, spree that finally got him suspended for six games, too. And just last week, the Oline that wasn’t very good got worse when RT Willie Colon shredded his Achilles tendon in OTAs and is out for the year. The Steel Town fellas are not looking good for this coming season, to say the least.
So here’s the Ravens chance. The Steelers always seem to stand in their way, but not this year. Actually, the Ravens are becoming the Eagles of the AFC. Always contending, always not good enough. Last year they finally whipped the Patriots in the playoffs, then got flattened by the Colts. One game short of the SB in 2006, 2008, and 2009. Twice dumped on the doorstep by the Colts and once by the Steelers.
And there’s the problem with Cincinnati, which beat them twice last year. Ray Lewis is approaching his 60th birthday, so you have to wonder how much menace is left in his Dennis. (Booo!!). Geez, the more I write, the more I’m reaching for the trap door lever. Maybe this ain’t their year, either — again!
In summation, the 49ers don’t play any of these teams this year, so who gives a crap? Right? Slug it out fellas. None of you are going anywhere, anyway. Let us know if one of you manage to score 20 points in a game, though. We can all go, “Huh?”