Welcome to the War Room, where Yahoo Sports’ football minds kick around the topics of the day. Today, we’re talking the AFC’s second (third) bananas and great sports fights. Onward!
1. The AFC has New England, Pittsburgh and … Auburn? The Harlem Globetrotters? Nobody. Who’s your pick as the team likeliest to break up the inevitable Steelers-Patriots AFC Championship?
I don’t feel particularly good about any of the teams in play here, but it has to be the Jaguars, right? They’ve got a top defense, a top rushing game and a serviceable passing offense. If they were to face New England — which is ranked 22nd in run defense, 31st in pass defense — you could make a case for an upset based on the stats this year alone. Unfortunately, that’s where the case dies. Because this all supposes Jacksonville would have to go to playoff-primed Gillette Stadium where it’s 0-3 in postseason matchups.
Just to be contrarian, I’ll take the Los Angeles Chargers. They have a favorable schedule down the stretch which could give them some momentum heading into the playoffs. I could see them pulling an upset off in Pittsburgh as their offense is clicking and their defense is very underrated. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are about as good a pair of pass rushers in the NFL and could win a game themselves if needed.
Friends! Have we all forgotten the Best Team In The NFL from Week 2? The Chiefs are still lurking out there, and, far as I know, they still have all the same players that helped them beat the Patriots and scare the league. I know, they look like they aren’t quite sure which direction to run, but once they figure that out, they’ll be running fast. And they’ve got the potential to be the most dynamic offense in the game. The potential, I say.
Don’t look now, but here come the Baltimore Ravens. They have a reasonable schedule down the stretch, with two of their three hardest remaining games — against the Lions and Bengals — coming at home. The Ravens don’t play pretty, but Terrell Suggs remains one of the best players in football regardless of position, and that secondary is playing really well, led by Jimmy Smith playing at an All-Pro level. Sure, Joe Flacco’s been underwhelming this year, but historically he’s terrific against the Pats in the playoffs. And John Harbaugh is an outstanding coach. That’s enough to worry anyone.
Realistically, it’s probably the Jaguars, though nobody will want to see the Chargers if they make it. However, for all the justifiable grief Kansas City has gotten lately, it’s still a team that started 5-0 with a dominating win at the New England Patriots. They’re slumping but Andy Reid is a good coach, and we’ve seen them play very well already (and win at New England). It’s not out of the question they could turn out of this skid and become dangerous again.
Since most of the other AFC contenders have been taken and I don’t believe in the Titans one bit, I’m going to think outside the box and say Pittsburgh. Like the question said, the Patriots and Steelers are head and shoulders above the rest of the AFC, but there’s a problem in Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger needs to take care of the ball better. In Pittsburgh’s two losses this season, Roethlisberger was responsible for six of the team’s seven turnovers. Compare that number to the Steelers’ nine wins, where Ben has only seven turnovers, the statistic is even more troubling. If he can’t limit his mistakes, he’s going to be Pittsburgh’s Achilles heel.
2. In honor of Talib-Crab II: what’s your favorite sports fight?
Blackhawks vs. Canucks in 2009. This was an all-out brawl (who pulls someone’s hair, honestly?) and began, in earnest, a heated rivalry that consisted of three consecutive meetings in the postseason. The Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cup victories in five years effectively ended the feud here, but we’re left with some fantastic memories, including that one time a reporter played the Hawks’ goal song in the Canucks locker room just to see what would happen. –Schuster
1982 North Dakota vs. Wisconsin hockey. I grew up hearing stories of this brawl that began because Cary Eades got squirted in the face by Wisconsin’s John Newberry for a second time. He jumped into the bench and the rest was history. Fans got involved. UND’s Jim Archibald even ran back down the tunnel and jumped into the pile of players. Some WWE-level stuff. –Velaski
Andre Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan is at the top of the list for me. Finnegan was always one of those small, scrappy corners who tried to get under your skin any way he could — a guy you loved to play with and hated to play against. He never backed down. You could tell both of these guys were out for blood, with Finnegan (five inches and 40 pounds smaller than Johnson) tossing Johnson’s helmet aside before getting pummeled. It brought some spice to an otherwise very mundane game. –Pereles
I’ll assume anyone voting for anything but Pascual Perez vs. the Padres from 1984 hasn’t seen those highlights. Perez, the Atlanta Braves’ starter, hit the first Padres batter of the game, then the Padres threw at him every time he hit after that. There were three brawls, 13 players and coaches ejected and five fans arrested. The brawls weren’t your garden variety baseball fights where a batter charges the mound and maybe gets in one shot before the teams arrive and order is restored. The fights went on and on and the clips look like they happened in a UFC Octagon. Greatest ever. –Schwab
Robin Ventura vs. Nolan Ryan. Nothing is better than watching a 25-year-old Ventura charge the mound and get embarrassed by the 46-year-old Ryan in one of the most iconic (and actually entertaining) baseball fights of all time. –Sulla
June 6, 1993, Mariners vs. Orioles. This was one of the great baseball fights of the 1990s, and I include it here because I was in the stands. Ever been in the stadium when a great fight takes place? You’re torn between wanting to watch the fight unfold and wanting to throw a few punches yourself. It’s a glorious feeling, much like this fight, which spread over the whole infield and brought in both bullpens. If baseball had a leave-the-bench-and-you’re-suspended rule like the NBA, Seattle and Baltimore would’ve had to forfeit the next three games. –Busbee
There you have it. Want the War Room crew to kick around a question? Email us right here. Enjoy Week 13!
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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