AFC Championship New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
When: Sunday Jan. 22 Where: Heinz Field Kickoff: 6:30 Eastern
Game Preview: Both teams can talk the talk, but when push comes to shove who will be the last team standing? New York back in the AFC title game for the 2nd time in two years, but they head into Pittsburgh where the Steelers are ready for their 2nd trip to the super bowl in 3 years. This is the third week in a row that the Jets are facing a super bowl winning quarterback and third straight road playoff game.
Tale of the Tape:
New York Jets (11-5 No. 6 Seed in the AFC)
In WWE fashion, The Jets have taken out arguably the greatest of all-time in Peyton Manning and the NFL golden boy Tom Brady in a two-week span.
Who’s Hot: The Jets defense is playing the best it has played all season. Teams and fans forgot all about the Jets defense after their Monday night meltdown to the Pats during week 13. Now the Jets D have redeemed themselves in the playoffs holding Peyton Manning to only one TD two weeks ago and sacking Tom Brady five times last week. The No. 5 defense take after head coach and defensive mastermind Rex Ryan, so prepare for them to go all out and do whatever it takes to get the win.
Who’s Not: Brad Smith is one of the best special teams and wildcat player in the league, but he has been slowed down a lot with a groin injury. In a game of this magnitude you always want your best players on the field, but at what cost? If he on the field, Brad Smith will be a scoring threat every time he touches the ball, but if he on the field he also liable to get injured on every time he touches the ball.
Who may surprise you: Last season Mark Sanchez was a rookie quarterback who was more of a game manager than a leader and decision marker for the Jets. This season Sanchez has become an elite NFL quarterback and has shown at times in the playoffs that he can put a team on his back and carry them to victory. Expect Sanchez to soar in his 2nd go around of the AFC Championship as he tries to be the first quarterback to get the Jets to the super bowl since Broadway Joe.
Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4 No. 2 Seed in the AFC)
The black and yellow came back from a 21-7 hole against the Ravens to win at home 31-24 and go to the AFC championship game for the 4th time in 7 years.
Who’s Hot: Ben Roethlisberger looked almost unstoppable last week leading the Steelers back from 14 down. Big Ben ended up throwing for over 200 yards passing and 2 touchdowns against a Ravens defense that many would consider tops in the league. Roethlisberger is making his third return trip to the AFC title game and has won both previous times he been there. You can’t help but give the experience factor to Big Ben.
Who’s Not: The Steelers biggest issue all season long has been the health of its offensive line. The o-line has not had a regular starting rotation all season and even loss 2 o-linemen last week against the Ravens. Pro bowl center Mariuce Pouncey has been the only linemen on the Steelers that has started every game this season. Even though the line has been pretty banged up for most of the year, they have been about to work together and not get Roethlisberger killed . The o-line will have to be tighter than ever this week against a blitz happy Jets defense.
Who may surprise you: Rashad Mendenhall only had 46 yards last week with two scores. The Steelers running back is a great goaline back, that will come in very handy inside the 10 yard line.
And the winner is……. Many fans feel that this game will be a low scoring slugfest between two of the league’s top defenses……that will not be the case. This game will be full of touchdowns, trick plays, and big gambles. Roethlisberger will make it a shootout between the two quarterbacks and head coach Rex Ryan will play right into the Steelers hands and allow Sanchez to air it out to prove a point. Both teams will live very dangerously pulling out all the stop, but at the end of day experience always beat talent. It usually takes a player 3 tries before they are a championship player and Mark Sanchez is no different. Sanchez will put up a great effort but right now you can’t bet against Big Ben in a championship game…….Steelers 30 Jets 27