For such a big game, there's been little talk between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.
New York has taken the "kill them with kindness" approach, with Pittsburgh following suit. With so much focused on the lack of talking, there hasn't been enough talk on the only part that matters: the game itself.
There are obvious keys to the game, such as both defenses playing as well as they have all year, Ben Roethlisberger making plays on offense and Darrelle Revis continuing to be the shutdown corner that he is. The deciding factors of the game, however, will lie with the unsung heroes.
1. Drew Coleman, Jets
Revis and Antonio Cromartie get a lot of fanfare, deservedly so, but Coleman has been key as the team's nickel back. He played a large role in the team's previous matchup, forcing a fumble that the Steelers recovered after a big loss, forcing Pittsburgh to use its final timeout with little time left in the game.
Assuming Revis blankets Hines Ward, and the Jets give Cromartie safety help over the top to protect against Mike Wallace's speed, Coleman will be paired on rookie Emmanuel Sanders. Keep a close eye on this matchup on third downs, where Sanders has recorded a lot of his catches.
2. LaMarr Woodley, Steelers, vs. Wayne Hunter, Jets
Hunter, filling in for Damien Woody in Week 15, as he will be on Sunday, did an admirable job against Woodley in their first meeting. Woodley had just two tackles and no sacks. Hunter will have to do just as good of a job in the rematch. Woodley has been a monster in the playoffs, even dating back to his rookie year. He has nine sacks in five games. If the Jets hope to establish any sort of a running game, Hunter will also have to hold his own.
3. Shaun Suisham, Steelers
As has been talked about, the Steelers special teams has had its fair share of struggles. Even historically, the team has never excelled in the third aspect of the game. Brad Smith is expected to play this week and is a dangerous return man, something the Steelers experienced firsthand in Week 15. Smith returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. The whole kick coverage unit for Pittsburgh will have to show up, but Suisham is key. He must get enough hangtime on his kicks to give his coverage unit enough time to get downfield. I recorded his hangtime on the Smith touchdown at just 3.6 seconds. Ideally, the hangtime should be around four.
4. Shaun Ellis, Jets, vs. Steelers offensive line
Ellis created havoc on Tom Brady last week, recording two sacks despite the Jets not bringing much in the form of blitzes. Ellis definitely earned his sacks. He's a tough, hard-nosed player who is big enough to bring Ben Roethlisberger down, as daunting of a task as that can be at times. The Steelers line, which has been a M.A.S.H. unit for most of the year, must keep 92 in check. Roethlisberger was sacked six times against the Ravens.
Fasten your seatbelt and buckle your chinstraps. Once the game starts, you can say goodbye to the kindness. And after the game, hello to the cold tub.