This Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be taking on the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Divisional game to decide who plays in the AFC Championship. The two teams met before in November, the Steelers winning 11-10 in a controversial outcome, at least in Vegas.
The Steelers are six-point favorites at home and seem to have a lot going for them, with a clean bill of health and the weather being in their favor.
But there are a few things that could or could not go Pittsburgh's way this weekend.
Parker is completely healthy heading into Sunday's game, but that could be a good or bad thing for the team. He has been inconsistent for most of the season, or at least what he played of it, and him being almost 100 percent will only increase Bruce Arians reliance on him in the running game.
Parker has had some good games this year though, one being Week 17 vs Cleveland when he had 116 yards and a score, but let's face it, the Browns are the Browns. He also rushed for 138 and 105 yards in the first two games of the season before getting injured and missing the next four.
And Parker has had some success against the Chargers. He had 115 yards the last time they met. It all depends on how Bruce Arians calls plays and how he uses Willie Parker in the running game.
No L.T. for SD
Another factor in Sunday's game is the fact that LaDainian Tomlinson has declared himself doubtful to play. Any team in the NFL would be extremely thankful to not have to worry about LT. Tomlinson is one of the best backs of all time, eventually he could be considered the best, but this may not be as good as it sounds for Pittsburgh because Darren Sproles just happens to be LT's backup.
Darren Sporles scares me. Almost as much as Ed Reed does. He is small and extremely quick. At 5'6", 181 lbs, he can easily slip away from defenders and he can get lost in a crowd, until he breaks through for a big gain.
His performance last week made me almost want to play against Tomlinson instead. He carried the ball 22 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Altogether, with the amount of rushing, receiving, kick, and punt return yards he had last week against the Colts, he put up 328 total yards! That's just insane.
Ben Roethlisberger has played very average this season despite high expectations after his 32 TD, 11 INT performance last season. A big thing that has affected his play this year is injuries. Roethlisberger has been a bit banged up for the better part of the season.
Whether it was a shoulder, hand, elbow, knee, or the most recent of his three concussions, he has not been completely healthy very much, until this week.
He passed his concussion test, he has had a week to rest, and he should be good to go. But Ben could also be good or bad for Pittsburgh. He has been inconsistent this year, having a three game stretch where he threw one TD and eight INTs, and then finished the last six games with seven TDs and just four INTs.
Roethlisberger has to get the ball out of his hand quick and not make stupid decisions. If he can do that, it should be an easy day for the Steelers.
I am confident in the Steelers abilities on offense this week because of the bye week and because it was great in Week 17. The defense is always good so there is not much to worry about on that side of the ball.
My prediction: Pittsburgh 24 - San Diego 13