Tom Brady and the New England Patriots visit the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night in what could be a preview of a postseason battle for a spot in the Super Bowl.
The winner of tonight's clash will be considered the darling of the AFC and likely occupy the top spot in NFL Week 11 power rankings.
But even if the Pats steal one in Pittsburgh, there are still be plenty of reasons to expect them to come up a little short in January.
Despite being one of the greatest postseason performers in NFL history, Brady is fighting an uphill battle with a patchwork offense.
Here are 10 reasons why Brady and the Patriots won't sneak into the Super Bowl this season.
New England is reeling a bit after being dominated by the upstart Browns in Week 9.
Things will get even tougher tonight in Pittsburgh.
The Patriots host the Colts in Week 11 and also face the Bears, Jets and Packers down the stretch this season.
Not exactly a walk in the park.
Given the youth on both sides of the ball, Brady and the Pats could finish the season with five losses and fail to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs.
By virtue of winning the first meeting with their divisional rival this season, the Jets are setting the pace in the AFC East.
New York also looks like a more complete team than New England.
A revitalized LaDainian Tomlinson carried the load early in the season, and the Jets have recently started to reincorporate Shonn Greene into the running game.
The arrival of Santonio Holmes has provided Mark Sanchez with a deep threat, and the defense has played well throughout the season.
It's beginning to look like the Jets will walk the talk and capture the division.
If the Patriots don't win the AFC East, they still have an excellent chance to make the postseason as a Wild Card team.
That doesn't mean they will embark on a prolonged playoff run.
The balance of power clearly lies in the AFC this season, with teams like the Titans and Colts capable of beating anybody despite subpar records.
If the Ravens ever figure out their problems in the secondary, they will present another formidable foe.
And don't rule out the Chiefs, who have played well enough defensively to stay in every game this season and are a few plays away from having only one loss.
Bill Belichick has his work cut out for him.
After looking a little shaky early in the year, New England's young defense has improved steadily and kept the Patriots in every game.
At least until last week's loss to the Browns.
With young players in the secondary and at linebacker, it will be difficult for the Pats to hold down the opposition as the season winds down.
That means Brady and the offense will have to control the ball and put up points to have a chance to make noise in the postseason.
Tom Brady's leadership has proven to be a valuable asset to the Pats this season.
With young players thrust into key roles throughout the offense, Brady has made the most of the talent around him.
The inexperience remains a glaring issue and could derail the Pats' postseason chances.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead will be counted on to run the ball down the stretch.
Meanwhile, rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have emerged as two of Brady's favorite targets this season.
There is just too much youth to expect consistent production down the stretch against tough competition.
Wes Welker has put up gaudy numbers and looked good doing it.
Despite his clear ascension to the No. 1 spot, Welker's true impact won't be felt until a reliable target emerges on the outside.
That means either Brandon Tate will need to develop or Deion Branch will need to discover the fountain of youth.
Without many weapons in the passing game, the Patriots have tried to turn to the running game more than usual.
Both Green-Ellis and Woodhead have had some nice moments, but New England's run blocking has been inconsistent.
Despite the return of Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, New England is still counting on two players who have never shouldered the load for an entire season.
Don't be surprised if B.G.E. and Woodhead wear down in the final weeks.
Randy Moss might not have actually produced many big plays during his stint with the Patriots this season, but at least the threat was always there.
Following the departure of Moss, New England's most reliable deep threat appears to be a rookie tight end.
That isn't a good thing.
Aaron Hernandez has great speed and the ability to get down the seam, but he has drawn more attention in recent weeks.
Until Brandon Tate has a breakout game, New England may be forced to keep things short through the air.
Let's face it, Brady has never had an overabundance of weapons at his disposal.
Nor has he been forced to consistently make big plays down the field.
Things are different with this year's edition of the Patriots.
With a small margin for error, coming up with a big play here and there could be the difference between an early exit from the postseason and a prolonged run.
In order for the Patriots to sneak into the Super Bowl, Tom Brady will have to play some of the best football of his entire career.
At 33 years old and with only a few dependable players around him, it seems unlikely he will have enough to push the Pats over superior opponents.
New England's offense will have to reload if Brady hopes return to the biggest stage.
The sun may have already set on his Super Bowl chances, as he enters the twilight of his Hall of Fame career.