It almost seems as if, through the years, they've deliberately been kept apart. In the last 16 years they've met only three times. The Giants never tested Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain Super Bowl champs of the '70s. Pittsburgh never tangled with the Bill Parcells Super Bowl winners of '86 and '90. In the 75 years, the two clubs have been in existence, they have never faced each other in the postseason.
Even this Sunday's venue, Pittsburgh itself, is terra incognita for the Giants. In 36 years, the Giants have traveled there only once. You get the feeling that a good, healthy rivalry could have flourished -- if only they had seen more of each other.
They are very similar. The platform for their success is strong running and stifling defense, especially against the run. They don't give up anything cheaply. The focus of Pittsburgh's defense is a deep, talented corps of linebackers, two of them who rush from the edges on passing downs. The Giants' strength comes from a beautifully integrated front four that maintains constant pressure.
Neither team figures to run that much. The Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last nine games. For the Giants, the figure is eight. I don't know whether or not Willie Parker will be a go for Pittsburgh. Mewelde Moore is a fun runner to watch, but I'm not sure how much of a dent he can put in New York's defense. The Giants use their running to set up Eli Manning through the air. Turnovers could be a problem for him against Dick LeBeau's unorthodox alignments and fronts.
Yards and points will be dearly won. I like the Giants as a three-point road underdog, though. They were terrific in a similar role in the playoffs last year. New York to take it in a slugfest.
A team changes coaches, bet it the following week. That formula is 1-1 so far. This week it serves up the Niners, giving five to the Seahawks, who look as though they're cooked. I'll take the favorite, in one of the few instances in which a team that just has canned its coach actually is favored.
Jimmy in our office, who says he's having a hot year (yeah, me, too, if you go the other way each week), likes Cleveland getting 7 in Jacksonville. "A three-point game," he says. I would beg to differ, with every shred of decency that remains in my being. I am emotionally involved in this contest. Kellen Winslow speaks out about the rash of staph infections, including his own, they suspend him for a week. Are we still living in a democracy?
Now if the Browns actually play better because of this, then it tells me they feel that Kellen's a whiner who got what he deserved. If they're secretly fuming, then it will show itself on the field and help the Jaguars. I believe the latter will happen. I believe in the right to self-expression, even though NFL players sign it away with their contract. Jags minus 7, and yes, I have a rooting interest.
I like Carolina giving 4 1/2 to the Cardinals, a much different team on the road.
And Tampa Bay getting a measly 4 1/2 in Dallas ... wow, that's a low number for the Cowboys.
Take Baltimore and give the 7 to the Raiders. Long trip, the week after a victory. Party time for Al's boys.
I predicted that Brett Favre would open it up against the Raiders. That wasn't my worst call of the day, but it was among my worst three. Prediction: Brett Favre will open it up against the Chiefs. "Unless he doesn't," says my redheaded wife. No, unless the rumors are correct, about his arm being hurt. I say he'll cover the 12 1/2 with one hand tied behind his back.
I just had a strange vision. What if the Chiefs pull a St. Looie and win in a blowout? Can you imagine the furor in the Monday New York papers? And Tuesday, Wednesday...what comes after Wednesday?...and Thursday and the rest of them?
Buffalo has beaten the Dolphins in seven of the last eight, including three of four in Miami. Now they're favored by a mere 1 1/2 down there, despite their pretty 5-1 record. I'm a Bills' fan, of sorts, but I'm sacrificing that to present you with one of those quirky, formula type picks, Miami taking the points.
I know, you're sick to death of hearing about my magic formula, but it made a 5-0 comeback last week, even though I had gotten away from it. Now it's back, me along with it. The following two are formula selections.
Houston minus 10 over Cincy.
Rams plus 7 against New England.
Last week: 4-4-1Season: 19-25