Steelers D needs to improve in 4th quarter

• The Pittsburgh Steelers had their share of issues in the fourth quarter last season and still have some questions this season, despite Monday night's nailbiting win at Cincinnati. Pittsburgh has given up an NFL-low 123 points as well as just 11 offensive touchdowns in eight games, but 63 of those points and eight of those TDs have come in the final quarter.

• The NFL gave us three overtime games in Week 9, the most in one weekend since Week 2 of 2006. There have been 11 overtime games this season in nine weeks, compared to 13 regular-season OT contests in all of 2009.

• With all of the drama going on in Minnesota, the one aspect of the Vikings’ game that has not gotten enough scrutiny has been the team’s pass rush. Brad Childress’ team led the NFL with 48 sacks last season, but had only six sacks in their first seven games this season (one by DE Jared Allen). On Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, the Vikings TOTALED six sacks, getting 2 ½ from Allen.

• The New England Patriots travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday night, then host the Indianapolis Colts the following week, a stretch that may tell us something about the power structure in the AFC. Sometimes we forget that while the NFC has sent nine different teams to the last nine Super Bowls, the AFC has been represented by just four teams over that same span: the Patriots (four), Raiders (one), Steelers (two) and Colts (two).

• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers nearly came up with another fourth-quarter comeback at Atlanta, but the bigger issue is Tampa Bay’s run defense, which has been a liability for more than a year and needs to radically improve if this club is to become a true contender. The Bucs were last in the NFL last season in rush yards allowed, and this year, they rank 30th out of 32 teams.

• More proof that the Oakland Raiders are indeed coming? Tom Cable’s team is 5-4 (equaling last season’s win total) and 3-0 in the division. From 2003-09, Oakland was a combined 8-34 in divisional games. This season, they snapped a 13-game losing streak to the San Diego Chargers and on Sunday, beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Oakland for the first time since 2002. Next up on their wish list is another win. The Raiders haven’t won more than five games in a season since their Super Bowl campaign of 2002.

• The Wade Phillips Era finally ended in Dallas following the team’s lopsided loss at Green Bay Sunday night. Here’s the list of midseason coaching changes (aka guys who were fired) in the league dating back to 2000:

RELEASED BY TEAM DURING SEASON (not including resignations)