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AFC race is wide open

Entering Week 10 in the National Football League, it appeared that the Houston Texans might have been the best team in the AFC.

The Texans tumbled from the top after news reports revealed quarterback Matt Schaub could be lost for the season.

The Texans (7-3) have a great running game, an excellent defense and have one of the best wide receivers in the game in Andre Johnson. Now they won't have a quarterback to throw Johnson the ball when he returns after his bye week.

Matt Leinart is Schaub's backup, which means the Texans don't have a quarterback. Leinart couldn't win the quarterback job in Arizona after Kurt Warner retired and Leinart's former coach, Pete Carroll, didn't work out a reunion.

The Texans' woes is good news for the Steelers, who have a week off to get healthy. The Steelers close out the season with the Chiefs, Bengals, Browns, 49ers, Rams and Browns again. The only tough test will be the road game against the 8-1 49ers.

The main competition will come from the Ravens and Patriots. We all know how the Steelers fared against Baltimore this season.

What can we expect from the Ravens the rest of the way? They have the Bengals twice, the Browns twice, the Chargers, Colts and 49ers. On paper, those aren't tough matchups, aside from Niners, who might decide the AFC North winner. However, the Ravens are unpredictable, as can be attested by their loss last week to the Seahawks.

The Patriots (6-3) have a favorable schedule the rest of the way. They will meet the Chiefs on Sunday, followed by the Eagles, Colts, Redskins, Broncos, Dolphins, Broncos, Dolphins and Bills. Only the Bills (5-4) have a winning record, and they haven't played well of late.

It'll be an interesting stretch after the bye, but things are looking good just one week after a last-second loss to the Ravens.


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I never understood the Steelers' fascination with their backup quarterbacks.

They've had either Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich for what seems like ages now.

And when the Steelers really needed a backup, Leftwich couldn't deliver.

Leftwich rambled 31 yards for a touchdown Sunday against the Ravens, but other than that burst, the Steelers couldn't do anything on offense in a 13-10 loss that puts them in a bad position in the AFC North.

Leftwich, with his long delivery, looks better suited for the Pirates' bullpen than behind center.

He went 18-for-39 passing for 201 yards, but couldn't help a Steelers' offense that looks lost right now.

The Ravens came into the game with a weak defense. The thought was Leftwich could manage the game, the Steelers could find a running back to rely on and they'd escape with a win.

It didn't work out that way.

And it looks like we could see Batch at QB this week -- or someone else.

The Steelers are worried about Leftw…