As the New York Jets travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers in Week 15 of the NFL season it would appear that the two teams are headed in opposite directions in terms of where their seasons are destined to end up, but don’t be too sure.
The Jets were the sexiest of picks to make the Super Bowl early in the season after beating up on the New England Patriots and almost everyone else in their path. The pick seems to be getting less and less attractive by the week as the Jets have lost two straight going into Sunday’s game.
Mark Sanchez has been blamed for a majority of the issues facing the Jets in recent weeks as his accuracy, poise and future have all been questioned. Bumps and bruises along the offensive line, being down early and a number of different variables have also come into play.
How will Sanchez respond to the criticism this week against the toughest defensive unit he has faced since the Baltimore Ravens in their week one loss?
The answer to that may be determined by those bumps and bruises. Not so much by what the Jets are dealing with, but by how well the Steelers can counter their injury issues as they hobble into Heinz Field Sunday.
The Steelers have been riddled with injuries along the offensive line this season, and it has cost them all but little in terms of their running game, and the hobbled Ben Roethlisberger is not getting the time he needs to throw the ball downfield.
While the Steelers have battled the injury bug hard on the offensive side of the ball, the defense has been their strong suit for much of the season, but this week is a different story altogether.
The Steelers are likely going to be without safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers do have the pieces to make a fight of it defensively without Polamalu, but James Harrison has not practiced all week with illness, and corner Bryant McFadden, who has been shaky at best the last few weeks, has been nursing a hamstring injury.
The Jets are looking to keep themselves in the hunt for the playoffs with a win against Pittsburgh Sunday. At 9-4 they are on the borderline of success and falling off the map.
In the same sense the Steelers are leading the AFC North at 10-4, and control their own destiny over the last three games of the season.
There are several scenarios that would give the Steelers a first round bye week and home field advantage in the playoffs. Perhaps no team needs a bye week more than the injury plagued Steelers, but they are not going to be able to rest players and count on help from other teams with Baltimore sitting one game back in the standings.
This game between the Jets and Steelers could determine a lot in the playoff picture for the both teams. While the Jets have fallen off a bit as of late and the Steelers seem to be surging at the right time neither team is as bad or well off as they seem, and a win or loss could change the picture drastically in the AFC.