Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-5)
There’s a lot of bad blood between these heated AFC North rivals — this Monday night, emotions should be high as they duke it out on national television.
Pittsburgh is no doubt looking to deliver a body-blow to the reeling Bengals. At 2-5, Cincinnati is dangerously close to being out of postseason contention (some would argue the Bengals already are) and one would think that a loss on Monday would seal the deal. So, why would the Steelers be so keen to KO the Bengals? Do consider that Cincy played a major role in Pittsburgh missing the playoffs a year ago — the Bengals swept the Steelers (they swept the entire division) and kept Pittsburgh from exerting its usual dominance over the AFC North.
Not to be outdone, the Bengals will be in search for their pound of flesh as well — most notably, LB Keith Rivers. It was less than two years ago when Rivers had his season cut short thanks to a lethal block from Pittsburgh WR Hines Ward — the blind-side wallop broke Rivers’ jaw and sent him into months of recovery. At home in front of a rabid Cincy crowd, expect Rivers and fellow linebackers Rey Maualuga and Dhani Jones to “bring the wood” in an attempt to match Pittsburgh’s physicality.
New England Patriots (6-1) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)
Speaking of bad blood, there’s quite a bit in this matchup as well. New England coach Bill Belichick doesn’t exactly have fond memories of his time in Cleveland — he coached there from 1991 to 1995, compiling a 37-45 record before resigning when the team left for Baltimore — and isn’t on great terms with the Browns’ head coach, Eric Mangini.
Mangini was an assistant under Belichick in New England from 2000-05 before he became the coach of the rival New York Jets in 2006 and developed a frosty relationship with Belichick after sparking the “Spygate” scandal.
This weekend, look for the Patriots to take out some of their coach’s revenge on rookie QB Colt McCoy. While he was under center for a shocking 30-17 win over New Orleans two weeks ago, Cleveland’s rookie signal-caller didn’t do much (going 9 of 16 for 74 yards) and wasn’t subjected to a lot of pressure. The Patriot pass rush has been getting stronger and stronger in recent weeks — DT Mike Wright has recorded a QB sack in each of his last four games — and rookie CB Devin McCourty has been improving by leaps and bounds. After getting torched earlier in the season, McCourty seems to have figured things out, recording interceptions in each of his last two games while registering four passes defensed.