Just a few days away from the AFC Championship Game between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers, I find myself calm, relaxed and confident about the Steelers' chances this Sunday.
Of course, Jets fans will say that I'm just biased and that I shouldn't sleep on the Jets, but I believe I have good reasons.
I could tell you that my confidence comes from the Steelers being at home for this game or that I believe they'll win because the game is being played on Myron Cope's birthday, but that's not the reason.
The reason I expect a victory for the black and gold this Sunday is mostly due to the quarterbacks of each team.
On one hand you have a young, second-year, wildly inconsistent quarterback playing on the road in a hostile environment in Mark Sanchez.
Last year, as a rookie, Sanchez threw just 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions with a QB rating of 63. Yet the Jets went 9-7 and made the playoffs. Sanchez and the Jets then won two road playoff games and eventually lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.
Sanchez did improve statistically this year, throwing 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with a QB rating of 75.3. At the same time, he's still very inaccurate, completing just 54 percent of his passes. Sanchez and the Jets finished the season 11-5.
Sanchez has played well so far this postseason, helping the Jets win two playoff games on the road. Last week against the Patriots in New England, Sanchez threw three touchdowns and zero picks. Suddenly he looks as if he's coming into his own and ready to live up to the hype.
Not only is he playing well right now, but his play started to pick up in the first meeting between the Jets and Steelers in Pittsburgh. Sanchez was 19-of-29 with a QB rating of 80.1 and ran for a touchdown in a win over the Steelers.
Reason for the Jets and their fans to feel confident about the game this Sunday, right? Not so fast, my friend.
The Steelers didn't have their best, most important, game-changing player on their defense that day. Troy Polamalu was not in the lineup due to an Achilles injury. The Steelers defense didn't force any turnovers and never made Sanchez feel uncomfortable. I see that being a different story this time around, as both Polamalu and Aaron Smith will be back in the lineup.
On the other side of the field, the Steelers will be able to trot out their two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, who may also be playing the best football of his career.
Ben Roethlisberger is playing at a very high level and seems to be on a mission to right all of his wrongs. Last week against the Ravens, Big Ben threw two touchdowns with zero picks and a QB rating of 101.8 and threw a 54-yard bomb on a third-and-19 that helped the Steelers move on in the playoffs.
Even more impressive is the way Roethlisberger is taking care of the ball. He hasn't thrown an interception in his last five games and has only one pick in his last eight starts. Taking that a step further, Ben hasn't thrown an interception in his last 170-plus attempts.
If both defenses play well this Sunday, which QB is more likely to have a good game? Obviously the more experienced and better of the two, and that's Big Ben. Which of the two is more likely to persevere through a poor start or if something goes bad? Ben.
I also believe that Sunday's game will be close and probably won in the fourth quarter, which once again gives Big Ben and the Steelers the edge. Since he's been in the league, Ben has the most fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives.
Lastly, I expect a big game from Ben because I believe he's playing with a chip on his shoulder. He's trying to avenge his poor choices off the field and is trying to prove that he deserves to be mentioned with the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
I expect it to be a close and good game Sunday and for Ben to once again give the Steelers another clutch performance and lead them to another Super Bowl appearance.
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