This weekend, four teams square off for that plane flight to Dallas. In the AFC, the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the New York Jets to see if they can pull off three road upsets in a row. Previously, in Week 15, the Jets came into Pittsburgh and knocked off the Steelers 22-17. However, in that game the Steelers were playing without Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller. Also, Ben Roethlisberger was playing despite his nose and foot being broken. The Jets have pulled off surprising wins on the road against two of the game’s top quarterbacks. Their defense shut down Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The Jets’ second year quarterback, Mark Sanchez, although he has been criticized for his inconsistency, has led his team to their second AFC Championship game in his first two years.
Enough of the background, time to predict the winner. When the Jets have the ball, they have some fairly decent weapons such as ex-Steeler Santonio Holmes and their tough ground game. However, the Steelers defense is very stingy against the run so the Jets could very well become one-dimensional very early in the game. One major question remains. Which Sanchez will show up? Will he throw three touchdowns and be an accurate passer? Or will he throw multiple interceptions and no touchdowns? The play of Sanchez will have a big impact on the outcome of the game. New York has an obvious advantage with their return games. Brad Smith had an opening kickoff return for a touchdown in the Week 15 meeting of these two teams. When the Steelers have the ball they will have to counter the Jets’ pass rush with their offensive line who is in bad shape due to countless injuries. Ben Roethlisberger may be the only quarterback who can be this good with his offensive line being this bad. Big Ben counts as lineman 6, 7 and 8 with his ability to escape. Even if the Jets do manages to get in the backfield, it will be very hard to get Big Ben to the ground. Luckily for the Steelers, Rashard Mendenhall will have the ability to slow down this rush with his threatening running. He can keep the Jets at bay if he can pound out some yards.
When Ben Roethlisberger throws the ball, his receivers will be covered by the Jets’ stellar corner-backs, Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Although, Roethlisberger can have some relatively easy success throwing down the middle to Heath Miller and his other receivers such as Antonio Brown who had a key play in the Steelers’ win over the Ravens. Overall, I believe that the Jets will have trouble moving the ball on the Steelers’ defense and Pittsburgh will move the ball very easily. Due to all of these factors, in my opinion, the winner will be…THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS.