Jets vs. Steelers: It's About Mark Sanchez vs. Ben Roethlisberger

Orly Rios Jr.Analyst IIJanuary 23, 2011

As Sanchez goes, so go the Jets.
As Sanchez goes, so go the Jets.Karl Walter/Getty Images

Sunday's American Football Conference title game between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers pits Mark Sanchez against Ben Roethlisberger.

It's "the road king" vs "Big Ben".

Sanchez, who is in his second season, has already tied the National Football League record for most road wins in the playoffs with four. His list of victories include wins against Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers, but Sunday's match up against Ben Roethlisberger may prove to be his toughest.

The Steelers enter Sunday's AFC title game with the No. 1-ranked defense in the land. They allow less than 15 points and 65 yards rushing a game.

On the other hand, the Jets defense itself isn't bad at all. This is the same defense that held the high-flying New England Patriots to just 21 points and intercepted Tom Brady, the first team to intercept the quarterback since October 17. This is a defense, however, which relies entirely on the play of its young QB, Mark Sanchez.

As Sanchez goes, so go the Jets.

In the Jets 45-3 blowout loss to the Patriots back in December, Sanchez was just 17-of-33 for 151 yards and three interceptions while the Jets were just 3-for-12 on third-down conversions.

Two weeks later, the Jets went into Pittsburgh and knocked off the Steelers, 22-17, a game in which a Roethlisberger pass was knocked away on the final play of the game. In that game, Sanchez finished 19-of-29 for 170 yards, but more importantly, he didn't throw an interception. The Jets also converted six of 13 third downs and ran for over 106 yards against a defense that usually allows half that total.

In the end, the Jets and Steelers AFC title game will boil down to Sanchez and Roethlisberger.  Sanchez, who is playing in his sixth straight playoff road game, is coming off back-to-back wins against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Roethlisberger is 9-2 all-time in the playoffs, with his losses coming at home to the New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It's "Big Ben" versus "The road king", and at the end of the day, one of them will be known as "Super Bowl bound".