Following a fantastic performance in the team's 48-28 drubbing of the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, the New York Jets hit the road for a tough in-conference matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Facing a questionable Buffalo team, embattled Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez silenced the doubters with a great outing, while the defense picked off Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick three times. Undoubtedly, the team will try to carry that momentum into Pittsburgh.
On the other hand, the Steelers come into their home opener looking to atone for a 31-19 road loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night. Led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw a critical pick-six to Tracy Porter in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh will hope to pick apart a Jets defense that could be without Darrelle Revis.
With a vital game on tap for both sides, here's a look at everything you need to know about the Week 2 matchup.
Where: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA
When: Sunday, Sept. 16 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Steelers (-6), according to Bovada.
Over/Under: 41.5, according to Bovada.
What's At Stake?
It's hard to call a Week 2 game a must-win for any team, but it may be for Pittsburgh. After a Baltimore Ravens win on Monday night, the Steelers are already looking up at their arch nemesis in the AFC North.
A difficult road game against the Philadelphia Eagles is in store for the Ravens, so a win could be the elixir to all the doom talk floating around the Steelers. A loss coupled with a Baltimore win, however, puts Pittsburgh in danger of an early-season bow out of the division.
On the other side of the field, it's all about the scorn of the watchful eye. Sanchez was fantastic in Week 1 against Buffalo, but the secondary play for the Bills was abysmal. Consistent broken coverages and a shocking lack of pocket pressure put the Jets quarterback in a position to succeed.
That won't be the case against a Steelers defense undeniably frustrated with its performance against Peyton Manning last Sunday.
A near-touchdown spread means New York is expected to lose. But it's how the team performs, regardless of outcome, that will determine what this game means going forward.
CB Darrelle Revis, Concussion, Questionable
S Eric Smith, Hip/Knee, Questionable
DT Sione Pouha, Back, Probable
OT Marcus Gilbert, Knee, Probable
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Knee, Questionable
LB James Harrison, Knee, Questionable
LB Stevenson Sylvester, Knee, Questionable
S Troy Polamalu, Calf, Questionable
Fantasy Player to Watch: WR Antonio Brown
After months of rampant speculation that Brown would usurp Mike Wallace as the Steelers wide receiver you want, Week 1 actually proved the opposite fantasy-wise.
Though the targets (eight to six) and yardage (74 to 37) battles went Brown's way against Denver, Wallace's three-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter gave the disgruntled wideout the edge in fantasy points.
Nevertheless, expect a big fantasy day from Brown on Sunday, as Wallace heads to Revis Island (assuming the Jets cornerback suits up). With smart route-running ability, he should be able to get by notoriously aggressive corner Antonio Cromartie for at least one big play.
And considering he's become a security blanket of sorts for Roethlisberger, starting Brown Week 2 should pay big dividends to make up for his mediocre opener.
What They're Saying
Incumbent starting running back Rashard Mendenhall is still healing from an ACL tear and is listed as questionable for the Steelers' matchup against the Jets.
That means that you should expect to see a ton more of replacements Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer this week. However, after Redman got the start and more carries in Week 1, you may see the split move in the latter's favor.
Dwyer was easily the far more effective back against Denver. The former Georgia Tech star gained 43 yards on nine carries, while Redman struggled with just 20 yards on 11 attempts.
With a tough defense in store on Sunday, it seems that head coach Mike Tomlin has noticed Dwyer's effectiveness and will get him a heavier workload going forward.
Said Tomlin to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette:
I thought Jonathan Dwyer provided a spark play and represented himself well and will probably get an increased opportunity because of it.
I think we're capable of being better. We're still going to continue to play a number of people. We haven't sorted out specifically what that rotation is to this point.
While the Steelers are stuck trying to figure out their running back situation, the Jets are basking in the glow of their opening-week victory.
Well, sort of. The Jets have gone conspicuously quiet after their win, seeming allowing their play to do the talking. For many who have clamored for this type of change, the non-boastful Jets are likely a welcome surprise.
However, according to NBCNewYork's Josh Alper, this week's game could be the difference between a "new" Jets and the same old disappointing bunch.
As glorious as the Bills win was, it will mean nothing if the Steelers push the Jets around in Pittsburgh this weekend. The volumes of praise that Mark Sanchez has received in the last few days won't be visible under tons of negative views of his abilities.
Basically, the Jets have to find some other pressure point to attack in order to make sure that their play remains at the same level or they'll wind up right back where they started. Nothing's been won yet and there will be no shortage of people informing them of such should they lose in Pittsburgh.
Jets Key Player: QB Mark Sanchez
One week of brilliant play is enough to get the Jets faithful temporarily off the Tim Tebow bandwagon.
A second great performance against the Steelers' vaunted pass defense, though? That could be the final nail in Tebowmania's coffin in New York.
Outside of simply getting the media monkey off his back, it's vital for the Jets' chances that Sanchez comes out firing. Running back Shonn Greene looked serviceable last week, rushing for 94 yards on 27 carries, but he won't ever individually win a game.
For the Jets to have a chance, Sanchez will have to connect down the field with rookie sensation Stephen Hill or Santonio Holmes while using a running game more as a buffer.
If the former first-rounder is able to do so, New York may pull off an upset.
Steelers Key Player: LB LaMarr Woodley
Pittsburgh failed throughout Week 1's contest against the Broncos to get any pressure on Manning, getting just three hits on a man who was playing his first game in nearly 20 months.
That cannot happen against the Jets.
Vital to the Steelers' pass rush improvement is Woodley, who struggled last week as the Broncos offensive line contained him to just three tackles. Considering the uncertainty surrounding James Harrison's status for Sunday, Pittsburgh will need full-throttle outside pressure from Woodley against a strong Jets offensive line.
If Woodley can work through the line early on and get some pressure on Sanchez, it could be enough to rattle his rhythm and cause some turnovers.
There is no denying that the doom-and-gloom predictions surrounding the Jets this pre-season were a farce. While the offensive depth is certainly questionable, the team has serviceable enough talent to compete as long as players stay healthy.
Those players just won't be serviceable enough to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Expect a hard-nosed contest, but one where the home team prevails.
Score Prediction: Steelers 23, Jets 14
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