AFC Championship Game Preview: New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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AFC Championship Game Preview: New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

NFL fans are buzzing awaiting the championship games to commence this weekend.
 
By early Monday morning, two of the four remaining teams left will head to Dallas, Texas to play for a championship on February 6 2011. The other two will head home.
 
Let's look at the AFC Championship Game, as the New York Jets head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.


New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2011 AFC Championship
 
The New York Jets are off to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers on Sunday night, in a game that will send one team home and the other to football's holiest grail, the Super Bowl.
 
The Jets have taken down the Colts and the Patriots. Coach Rex Ryan’s game plan was not only on the field, as the Jets gave trash talking a new meaning.
 
Offensive? Yes. Classless? Definitely. Necessary? Maybe not, but in sports professional anything goes as long as you are winning and the Jets are still doing that.
 
So following the 28-21 win against the Patriots, most figured the Jets would start another week filled with more ridiculous antics.
 
Instead, the Jets have remained virtually silent, with only words of praise and admiration for the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger. It makes everyone wonder, why stop now?
 
The Steelers are not the preppy Pats, or orderly Colts—they are rough, dicey and hard-hitting.
 
They’re not polished or polite, as the Steelers are more what the Jets dream of becoming: terrifying. You don’t mess with any of them. For whatever reason, the Steelers have the Jets' respect.
 
Still, the Jets are no slouches either. Whether or not it is justified, Gang Green enters this game with a wealth of self-confidence. In the last two weeks, New York has been on the road and trodden two of the supreme quarterbacks of all time, first Peyton Manning and second Tom Brady.
 
In any event, Jets QB Mark Sanchez has not made me a believer yet. Both the Colts and Pats had inexperienced defenses. It gave Sanchez a security blanket because he could employ the running games of LaDainian Tomlinson and and Shone Greene. Against the Pats, Sanchez only completed 16 passes total.
 
Even with their 22-17 defeat in Week 15 at Pittsburgh, the Steelers were without their best defender Troy Polamalu. Polamalu is an absolute monster and his presence is what makes the Steelers defense work.
 
Last week, the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens but Polamalu was clearly still suffering from a nagging Achilles injury. He still played and the Steelers still won, as QB Roethlisberger completed 19 of 32 passes, for a total of 226 yards and 2 touchdowns.
 
So, what does either team have to do to win?
 
In order for the Jets, it will be determined by how effective Sanchez can be. Literally, Sanchez will have no choice but to throw the ball if the Jets want to score touchdowns. The Steelers defense can shutdown the run game almost completely, as they only allowed the Ravens to rush for 35 rushing yards total last weekend.
 
The Steelers have to take the Jets seriously, especially their defense. The Jets secondary sits atop the NFL's most elite list, as they can make opposing team's wide receivers virtually useless.

The Steelers have an illustrious young RB in Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall was limited to 46 yards on 20 carries against the Ravens but he still managed to score two touchdowns. Look for Mendenhall to have a big game, rattling the Jets defense and hopefully giving Big Ben more options to throw to.
 

AFC Championship Game Prediction:

 
This game is a tricky pick, as the Jets keep defying the odds. This week I will give New York the benefit of the doubt and predict the Jets to win. Score: 18-17

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