PITTSBURGH - Given the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2-5 record and their performance last week against a lousy Oakland Raiders team, the tendency is dismiss any chance of success this afternoon in New England.
But there are a couple of factors to consider here:
1. The Patriots don't appear to be what they used to be, at least not at the moment.
2. The NFL doesn't make any sense.
That tired cliche about how anybody can beat anybody on a given Sunday really does contain some truth.
That thought occurred when watching the Green Bay Packers beat up the awful Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings looked completed disorganized, equally inept on both sides of the ball.
They looked like a team that is intent on locking up the No. 1 spot in the draft. They looked like a monumentally bad team.
Then you remember - they beat the Steelers last month.
At the same time, the Steelers somehow managed to beat the Baltimore Ravens, so what conclusions can you draw from any of it?
The answer is none. Sit back, watch the games unfold, and keep your money in your pocket.
It will be interesting to see today if the Steelers follow their usual pattern of self-destruction, which is to fall behind, then spend the rest of the game playing catch-up that never quite meets its goal.
There's also the intrigue of seeing whether the Steelers can generate turnovers against Tom Brady. That's been a problem all year, against much less accomplished quarterbacks.
A losing season is not necessarily a dull season. There's a lot to look for in the remaining part of the schedule, and what impact it will have on the organization as it plans for the future.
As Mike Tomlin is fond of saying, the standard is the standard.
As the season hits the halfway point today, the Steelers have fallen well short of the standard they've established for themselves.
Shopping for help
Free agency opens shortly in baseball, and the Pirates will be looking to plug a big hole at first base.
It's doubtful that Garrett Jones will be invited back, and Gaby Sanchez has proven to be a platoon player.
They need a bat for the position. It's doubtful that will be Justin Morneau, though.
Morneau wasn't terrible in his month with the Pirates, but he didn't deliver the power that was expected.
He managed four extra base hits - all doubles - in 92 at bats. He drove in three runs.
James Loney could be a possibility, depending on what kind of interest he draws.
If the Pirates make first base their top priority this winter, they could commit to the position like they did to catcher last year when they surprised everyone with a highly competitive offer to Russell Martin.
Free agents looking for a chance at the postseason won't automatically disqualify the Pirates the way they have in the past.
A power bat at first base would go a long way toward strengthening a lineup that needs help.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org