AFC Championship: Jets @ Steelers

AFC Championship Game: New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers Sun. Jan. 23rd 2011 6:30pm EST

The AFC Conference playoffs has come down to just two teams in the hunt for an appearance in the Super Bowl, but even though the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers are more than capable of being Super Bowl champions this season, they weren’t the two teams that were anticipated to represent the AFC .

Coming into the NFL playoffs, the New England Patriots looked like they had the right pieces of the puzzle to go the distance. With Tom Brady playing like the NFL MVP, which he will probably be awarded soon, and the rest of the Patriots coming together at just the right time, Bill Belichick and company seem poised to win their fourth Super Bowl title.

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Football: Jets-v-Eagles, Sep 2009 - 09
Image by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

Unfortunately for the Patriots, they underestimated the Jets last weekend as Darrelle Revis and the New York secondary were able to shut down the potent offense of the New England. With the New York Jets dispatching of Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the first round and getting the best of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots last weekend, Rex Ryan’s squad have quieted the critics and seem more than capable of advancing to the Super Bowl.

As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they were pretty impressive last weekend in the win against the division rival Baltimore Ravens, but will almost certainly have their work cut out for them this weekend as they face off against a very motivated New York Jets team.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this matchup at Heinz Field this weekend will be lockdown defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers against second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez. Even though Sanchez continues to prove people wrong, this weekend he will have to deal with Troy Polamalu and arguably one of the best defenses in the league.

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Steelers safety Troy Polamalu

Image via Wikipedia

The Steelers defense isn’t as good at stopping the pass as they are at stopping the run (1st in the NFL), but they can still get in the heads of opposing quarterbacks and cause them to throw costly interceptions. In this game, Pittsburgh will almost certainly want to capitalize on the inexperience of Mark Sanchez by forcing them to make bad throws all game long.

Fortunately for the Jets, Sanchez might be passed making all his costly mistakes as he played brilliantly last weekend against the New England Patriots with three touchdown passes. Obviously, the former USC standout still has a ways to go before being considered a great NFL quarterback like two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger, but he could take one step closer to being considered an elite QB with a win over the Steelers and a trip to the Super Bowl.

As of right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been given a -3.5 point edge in this AFC Championship game, but I believe the New York Jets are finally ready to take that next step and compete for a Super Bowl title.

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