Even though the reliability of the practice is annually discredited we do it, anyway.
At least, I do.
The schedule comes out and a “W” or an “L” is eventually assigned to each matchup, and perhaps a “toss up” designation for the games that appear too close to call months before kickoff.
A little further review once the draft picks have been on display in training camp and you find out who survived the preseason intact is always prudent.
Waiting until practice squads are formulated and initial 53-man rosters are adjusted might also help.
But such an exercise still relies on guesswork much more than it does enlightened or inspired analysis.
Even days before the ball is kicked off.
Consider last season, when New England, Houston, Philadelphia, Minnesota and San Francisco all failed to make the playoffs after having done so the previous season, and that was with an additional qualifier in each conference.
In 2019 Indianapolis, the Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas, Chicago and the Los Angeles Rams didn’t reach the postseason after having made it the previous season.
This has been the trend in the NFL for some time now.
It’s been that way because there are just too many variables over the course of 16, and now 17 regular-season games.
Injuries dictate success or failure more than any other, but there’s always a new coaching staff that clicks instantly, or a low-profile free agent who becomes the perfect fit, or a rookie free agent nobody saw coming who turns into a difference maker.
Sometimes, it comes down to the bounce of a ball or a call.
Or a last-second field goal that doinks off an upright and falls on either the right or the wrong side of the crossbar.
You really never know until you know.
And yet, here we go …
The Steelers are destined for 9-8.
Here’s how they’ll get there:
THE AFC NORTH:
Six games against the Browns, Ravens and Bengals, two teams that project as formidable (I’m not off Baltimore’s bandwagon yet despite the Ravens’ massive injury issues) and one that should be a much-improved bunch. It’s unlikely the Steelers will get swept by any of them, but a sweep against any of the three may likewise be out of reach.
Remember, the Steelers lost to the Bengals last December when the Steelers were quarterbacked by Ben Roethlisberger and the Bengals countered with Ryan Finley.
Given the traditionally competitive nature of division games in this division, anticipating a record of 3-3 in the six the Steelers will play this season is reasonable.
THE LONG ROAD AHEAD:
The schedule commences at Buffalo and includes trips to Green Bay and Kansas City.
Those three teams went a combined 20-4 at home and 40-8 overall last season.
Does this really need any further review?
Do we have to call DVE Morning Show Officiating Guru Gene Steratore for clarification?
Write down “L,” “L” and “L” with a Sharpie.
HOME SWEET HOME:
Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago and Detroit will be visiting Heinz Field.
Welcome, one and all.
Get out the Sharpie, again.
“W,” “W,” “W” and “W.”
So that’s a 7-6 record amassed in 13 of the 17 eventual decisions.
Here’s where it’ll get really interesting.
FLIP A COIN:
Seattle here, the Los Angeles Chargers there, Minnesota there and Tennessee here.
Four games the Steelers could win.
Four games they’re likewise capable of losing.
Splitting the difference contributes to an overall mark of 9-8.
Not enough to make the playoffs, but enough to beat Vegas in Vegas (the Steelers’ over/under for total wins is 8.5).
It ought to be entertaining, if not cause to stage another parade