Here are some of the thoughts of the CBS crew of Phil Simms and Dan Dierdorf
Let’s start Simms on Cincinnati-Pittsburgh: The rematch is real. Everybody has looked at Cincinnati all year and said, ‘They’re a nice story but they’ll fade away.’ I don’t know if they will. They did get hurt by losing Leon Hall. That has changed their team a little. But they are very good on defense with a lot of good defensive lineman. They’ve also done an excellent job with a young quarterback. They’re showing everybody in the league the precautions you have to take to keep a young quarterback going and being productive for the team. But they’re also being careful not to ruin his confidence. It’s a fine mix and I give the Bengals a lot of credit. They’ve handled that whole situation very well.
Pittsburgh: We all know that the Steelers are a good football team. You can’t just judge Ben Roethlisberger on numbers. You have to watch him play and trust what you see. And what you see is a really, really good quarterback. He is definitely one of the top five in the NFL. He just keeps rolling. He takes a lot of big hits and plays under pressure. I’ve never seen a quarterback more fearless when it comes to taking hits and not letting it affect him. It must be fun to be the big bully because that’s about how he plays. It really works well for the team.
AFC North and Playoffs scenario: It’s too early to tell how many teams could come out of the AFC North. This thing is going to be a mess. Now Denver is in it out West. You have Oakland. You have all the teams in the AFC North playing well. You still have the Jets in the East. This is going down to Week 17 where we’re going to watch four teams play to get the final two playoff spots, and whoever we pick will probably lose and it will be the other two. The one thing we’re finding out about the League, everybody always acts surprised when a certain team has trouble, like the Ravens losing in Seattle. Every week it’s something. There is just not that much that separates the teams. That is why there is going to be a lot of upsets these next five weeks. Let’s count on that. It’s a long, adversity-filled season in the NFL and we’ll see how all these teams react to it.
Dierdorf’s take on Miami: The people of South Florida are probably tired of hearing about the woulda-shoulda-coulda-play hard-close games Dolphins, but this is a football team that could easily have a winning record. They’ve played that many tight games. They have certainly played better than their record. Unfortunately, the NFL does not award style points. You either get the ‘W’ or the ‘L.’ Matt Moore has really played darn good football. And Reggie Bush has stepped it up. There is some upside to the Dolphins right now, Matt Moore is playing pretty darn good football and so is Reggie Bush.
Miami playing role of spoilers: When you move into December and you’re not a playoff team, you certainly take satisfaction in beating a team with a winning record and maybe spoiling their chances. It sounds petty, but misery really does love company in the NFL.
Oakland needing to win and keep pace in tight AFC West: You have to give Hue Jackson a lot of credit. When they lost Jason Campbell, I think a lot of people thought they were done, dead, stick-a-fork-in-them. At this point, the Carson Palmer move has reaped some dividends. He’s brought tremendous leadership and a confidence level to their offense. This is one of those win-win deals. The Bengals got a lot for Palmer. The Raiders got someone that they desperately needed to bring stability to the quarterback position. And it was a great move for Carson Palmer.