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Playoff positioning taking place

November 29, 2007
The Altoona Mirror
If the NFL playoffs started this weekend, the Steelers would be hosting the Cleveland Browns in the first round.

Many teams may not want to face an opponent for a third time, especially one it has already beaten twice, but of all the AFC teams in good playoff position right now, the Browns may be the best matchup for the Steelers.

The Steelers know the Browns well and have a huge physical and psychological edge on them. The only advantage Cleveland has is on special teams.

The Steelers have never lost to a divisional opponent in the playoffs, beating Houston three times, Cleveland twice and Cincinnati once.

As long as the Steelers maintain a lead in the division, it wouldn’t be all that bad if the Browns stayed on their heels.

Down the stretch

Of course, a lot of football remains to be played.

The Steelers have two tough games — at New England and at home against Jacksonville — and two games against improving teams — this week against Cincinnati and at St. Louis — along with an always difficult game in Baltimore.

If the Steelers can go 3-2 the rest of the way, they should be able to secure the No. 3 seed for the AFC playoffs.

If the Steelers finish 11-5, it would force the Browns to run the table, which means they would have to win their final seven games. They’ve already won two and none of their final five foes has a winning record, but it’s hard to imagine the Browns sweeping their three remaining road games — in Arizona, at the Jets and in Cincinnati.

Quick hitters

n The horrible playing surface at Heinz Field helped the Dolphins by neutralizing advantages the Steelers had over them. This week, a bad playing surface will help the Steelers more because it will slow down the Bengals’ dangerous receivers.

n With Jerame Tuman on injured reserve, it’s been surprising the Steelers haven’t signed another tight end. Despite Bruce Arians’ desire to use three tight-end sets, the Steelers have gone the last two weeks with just two on their roster, Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth. A good blocking tight end would seem like a good addition to the team.

n If Green Bay ends up with the top seed in the NFC, Brett Favre deserves to be the MVP of the league. Tom Brady is having the best season ever by a quarterback, and the Patriots are undefeated, but Favre is working wonders with much less around him.

n The Cowboys’ Wade Phillips should be the current favorite for NFL coach of the year.

NFL Week No. 13

Game of the week: Green Bay at Dallas, 8:15 p.m. tonight (NFL Network).

Upset special: San Francisco (+3) at Carolina.

Fantasy tip: Don’t give up on Eli Manning after last week’s performance. Expect him to bounce back in Chicago this Sunday.

Buck Frank can be reached at

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