TGIF (Thank God It's Football Season)
by Turtle Jones
Lets face it, football rules.
Yeah, baseball is great. Hockey? Yup, love it. Basketball, eh, I'll watch it, sometimes... Depends how the Celts are doing. But football? I just can't get enough of the fooseball, even if it is The Devil.
If it were not for my wife giving me the, 'don't even think about watching another game', evil eye as soon as The Patriots game ends every Sunday afternoon, I'd watch football all day.
In her defense, there's a lot of nonsense that goes on around here when The Pats are on: yelling, screaming, running around the house, occasional writhing on the floor in agony, and that's not even including what the kids are doing during the game...
The NFL instituted this fairly new 'tradition' for kicking off the season two years ago, where the winner of the Superbowl gets things started in a nationally televised home game on a Thursday night.
Personally, I like it. I realize that it's mostly just another way for the NFL to hype itself, but I don't care. It's fun and I think it's a cool way to let the reigning champs and their fans have a final moment in the spotlight before the normal Sunday schedule starts.
Tonight's game should be pretty interesting.
Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlesburger will be on the sidelines after undergoing an emergency appendectomy earlier this week. That means the Steelers backup quarterback, Charlie Batch, will step in under center.
Batch is a decent QB. He is a seasoned player and should not have a problem stepping in while Rothlesburger recovers from his surgery. The Steelers are a team that relies mainly on their running game on offense. They like to give the ball to their running backs and let them wear down the opposition's defense by pounding the ball down their throat. Rothlesburger's job is basically to hand the ball off and not make any mistakes in the passing game so I don't expect to see a huge drop off in the Steelers offensive production with Batch in there in his place.
On the Miami side of the ball, The Fish are hoping that the off-season acquisition of quarterback Dante Cullpepper from the Minnesota Vikings will finally solidify a position that has been in constant flux ever since Dan Marino retired from Miami back in 2000.
Cullpepper is coming off of a pretty extensive offseason knee surgery, but looks to have completely recovered, playing without any problems in all of the Fish's pre-season games this year.
Both the Steelers and the Dolphins are very solid teams defensively. They both feature a strong defensive line that can stop the run as well as quick linebackers that can put pressure on the quarterback. That means there will be a lot of heat on both of the QB's in this game not to make any mistakes. A turn-over by either team could wind up being their undoing.
Once the initial adrenaline rush at the start of the game is over, I'm expecting this one to become a bit of a slugfest between these two teams. If I had to make a pick, my mind is saying Miami in an upset, but my gut tells me that the Steelers don't kick off the '06 season as reigning champs with a loss in front of their home-town crowd. I mean really, how lame would that be?
Always go with your gut.
Prediction: Steelers 24, Fish 17.
Ernie writes daily at Mr. Black and White
His regular NFL column for FTTW will appear on Sunday mornings.