The time off between the end of the regular season and the bowl date allows teams to heal up.
New contributors also emerge in bowl practice. We want to know which teams benefited from the time off the most and are likely to be fresh. Some rosters will be in the best shape they’ve been all year, while other teams will be missing key players who played a huge role in the team’s success.
Don’t forget about Detroit in that desperate NFC playoff mix, given it is currently ahead of both Green Bay and Dallas in the pecking order at No. 8. The Lions will get a fight from the Bears early thanks to Jordan Howard’s continued strong running. Eventually, though, Matthew Stafford will get the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to put it away, back in the confines of his home dome.
The Steelers will be questioned about doing it against their primary foe in the AFC, a Patriots team that will try to match their 11-2 record on Monday night in Miami. The Steelers host them in Heinz Field next Sunday, and they’re on pace to meet again somewhere in the AFC title game.
The Steelers will have the emotional motivation of playing for the still-hospitalized Ryan Shazier, as they did against Baltimore … but they’ll also be playing without his very crucial presence, which was clearly missed Sunday.
Clearly, quarterback was the sore point. The Browns notoriously passed on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, so there was DeShone Kizer Sunday … playing very well, the best he has all season. Until, of course, he wasn’t. The wild alley-oop heave for the overtime interception that cost the Browns the game was his season in a nutshell.