In preparation for the NFC and AFC championship games this weekend, The Point After will be taking a look at each team and pointing out the keys to each team winning. We will start the previews of the games with the reasons why the Pittsburgh Steelers will represent the AFC in the Superbowl.
Point #1: The Steelers have traditionally had the best defense in the league, and it's no secret that they are this season. Pittsburgh puts forth the most talented defense in the country; however, the Jets beat the Steelers last month. This game will come down to the ability of the Jets to run the ball. The Jets were the most successful rushing team this year versus the Steelers, but the playoffs represent a totally different scenario. The Steelers are the most experienced team remaining in the playoffs and by eliminating the Jets running game, the Steelers will be able to control the pace of the game.
Point #2: Ben Roethlisberger has the clear edge over Mark Sanchez in the quarterback matchup. Year in and year out, Big Ben has proven that he is one of the best signal callers in the NFL. He has 2 Super Bowl rings, and a 9-2 record in the playoffs, not to mention a 15-1 record in his rookie season. Mark Sanchez has taken the more scenic route on his way to stardom, and has yet to make a name for himself in the Meadowlands. Sanchez has played well enough in the playoffs both this year and last year, but has relied a lot on his defense and running game. Roethlisberger is definitely the better quarterback through his experience, ability to escape the pass rush, and overall quarterback IQ.
Point #3: The Pittsburgh Steelers have one major offensive advantage over the New York Jets: speed. Antonio Cromartie struggles with speedy receivers, so his play is crucial to the Jets defense. Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown are all much faster than their counterparts and need to use their speed to their advantage. Their ability to convert on long third downs vs. the Ravens helped the Steelers advance in the playoffs. As long as the Steelers offensive line can protect Big Ben, the Steelers wide receivers can cause major problems for the Jets.
X-Factor: None other than Troy Polamalu himself. This man is the heart and the leader of this great defensive unit. his relentless play and game changing ability will be the difference in this game. He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time, and with a young Sanchez running the Jets offense, look for Polamalu to be in his face more than once. If the running game is stopped by the Steelers front seven, Polamalu could have an interception or two.
It will definitely be interesting to see two of the best defenses battle against each other, but this game will come down to a few factors that we mentioned above. We believe the Steelers will win and our score prediction is: Steelers 27 - Jets 14.
Sagar Parikh and Joe Balcom