The New York Jets look to continue their improbable run to the Super Bowl with another road upset against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets won the first meeting, but Troy Polamalu was M.I.A. Will that make a difference in the 2011 AFC Championship?
The early spread on this game is Steelers (-3) Here are some of the key aspects of the game and what to watch out for when betting. Stats from NFL.com and ESPN. All lines from Cooper’s Picks.
The Steelers are nursing some injuries in their trenches. Some of the key injuries for the Steelers include Aaron Smith, Bryant McFadden, and Steve McLendon. James Harris is currently probably as of 1/16.
The Jets have listed Brad Smith as day-to-day and missed the divisional match-up. Smith had a kickoff return for a touchdown in the last meeting, so his presence is important.
The Steelers have one extra day of preparation and rest as they played on Saturday. These teams have already played during the regular season, so they should know what to expect.
The Jets won the first meeting 22-17. The Steelers marched inside the Jets 15 before time expired on their comeback hopes. Troy Polamalu didn’t play, and the Jets needed a Brad Smith kick return for part of their scoring. The Steelers outgained the Jets by nearly 100 yards, but the Jets made the plays.
#4: Road Warriors
The New York Jets have won four road playoff contests in the past two seasons. They’ve won games in Cincinnati, San Diego, Indianapolis, and New England. They also held a first half lead in the 2010 AFC championship against the Indianapolis Colts, and they had a better road record than home record during the regular season.
Both teams ranked amongst the NFL’s best in yards allowed by defenses. The Steelers rushing defense allowed nearly 30 yards less than any other opponent during the regular season and held the Jets Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson to 89 yards combined. The Jets could have more difficulty with the return of Troy Polamalu, who missed the last contest.
#6: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. AFC East
The Steelers have had much difficulty against AFC East opponents this season. They were defeated handily by the New England Patriots, lost 22-17 at home to the Jets, needed overtime and a bluffed passing play to defeat the Buffalo Bills, and a controversial officiating call against the Miami Dolphins.
The Steelers haven’t appeared to match up well with the AFC East teams. Can the Jets continue that trend?
#7: Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis has the opportunity to shutdown Mike Wallace, eliminating a major source of playmaking potential for the Steelers. If the Jets can contain the running game and take advantage of the Steelers offensive tackle issues, will the Steelers find themselves in a quagmire for offense?
#8 Special Teams
Special teams could play a factor in this match-up. Brad Smith returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the last match-up, and both teams have inconsistent kicking games. Heinz Field is known as a difficult place for kickers.
Both teams are eerily similar. Both teams have Super Bowl caliber defenses. Both teams have inconsistent kicking games. Both teams rely on a power rushing game with a stout rushing defense. Both teams have questions at offensive tackle and some of the best secondary players in the NFL. The biggest difference? The Steelers have home field advantage and Ben Roethlisberger.
The biggest elements of this game are going to be revenge and quarterback. Sanchez wasn’t too impressive in the first match-up despite Troy Polamalu’s absence. The Jets were able to defeat premiere playoff offenses, but how will they match-up in a playoff contest against another suffocating defense?
I believe the X factors in this game will be Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu. It’s hard to pick against the Jets after getting this far, but I’ve liked the Steelers since the playoffs began. The Steelers are the most complete football team, and they should hold up unless their offensive tackle issues become more serious.
Against the Spread: – Pittsburgh Steelers (-3)
Straight: – Pittsburgh Steelers
More From Yahoo! Contributor Network
NFC Championship Predictions Against the Spread: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
More playoff previews and predictions against the spread available by checking out my profile.
Cooper’s Picks, January 16, 2011
Stats NFL.com, January 16, 2011
Injury Reports, Covers.com. January 16, 2011