Sunday’s AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh is a must see for football fans who like the game played the way it was meant to be played, by running the football and playing defense. The Jets finished the season as the 4th best team at running the football and the 3rd best at stopping the run while the Steelers boast the #1 ranked rush defense with the more balanced attack on offense.
The Jets and the Steelers met back in week 15 in Pittsburgh.. The Jets saw themselves come out on top 22-17 game that was highlighted by a 97 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by return specialist and wild cat QB Brad Smith. This put the Steelers in must score situation and the Jets were able to hold on for the win. In that week 15 matchup the Steelers offense put up over 100 more total yards then the Jets. A large part of this was due to the Steelers running for 146 yards on 25 carries bringing it to almost 6 yds per carry on the day. If the Jets want to experience dejavu and leave Pittsburgh as winners on Sunday the defense for the Jets will have to do better.
Here are the key matchups:
D’Brickashaw Ferguson VS. James Harrison
In order for the Jets to be successful Mark Sanchez has to be given enough time in the pocket to look downfield to his receivers without having to worry about DEs and LBs breathing down his neck. In last week’s win VS New England and the win in week 15 in Pittsburgh, Sanchez was sacked but once…once…that’s it. James Harrison absolutely had his way last week with the Ravens LT Michael Oher and recorded three sacks on the game. This is a great matchup and either team could make a case for having the edge here.
Jets corners VS Steelers WRs
Two words, Revis Island. The Steelers might as well tell whoever they decide to put on the outside with Revis to keep their head up and be proud if they catch a ball because they’ll only get one or two. Cromartie on the other hand had difficulty covering speedster Mike Wallace in the teams first matchup. Wallace was targeted 10 times and caught 7 of those balls for 102 yards. It may have been possible that Wallace’s speed took Cromartie by surprise however it won’t this time around. I expect Cromartie to play closer to the line and use his size and strength to bump Wallace slowing down his release and giving time for the defensive line of the jets to flush out Roethlisberger. I give the edge to the Jets here.
Jets RBs VS Steelers D
Everyone is well aware that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is ridiculously stingy against the run but don’t count out the jets chances here either. The Steelers only gave up about 62 yards per game to opponents on the ground during the season but they did surrender 106 yards to the Jets in their first matchup. 106 being the highest total of any opponent the Steelers played all season. If the Jets can keep the chains moving on the ground I see no reason they can’t control the clock and play the type of game that fits them best. Look for Ladainian Tomlinson to step up in his quest for a Super Bowl victory.
There are plenty of sub plots to this game like Santonio Holmes VS his old team and what effect will Troy Polamalu have, as he missed the last contest. What it’s really going to come down to is what team comes out with the controlled intensity needed for a game of this magnitude. Rex Ryan has this team believing it can not be beat. My prediction… Jets 24 Steelers 20. I’m a believer!!!