AFC Championship - Steelers vs. Patriots

The Pittsburgh Steelers will head into New England to face the Patriots for the right to represent the AFC in the SuperBowl. The Steelers ran all over the Dolphins in the Wild Card round and then faced a tough test on the road against the Chiefs. They managed only 6 Chris Boswell field goals in the teams 18-16 win in the divisional round. The Patriots easily took care of the Houston Texans in the second half and pulled away for a 34-16 win in the divisional round. Both teams enter the game in relatively good shape in regards to health for what should be a memorable contest.

The Steelers have won two Superbowls with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and the team is a run first team, however they will need a better performance out of Ben than they did last week if they want to come out of New England with a win. He did not throw a touchdown against the Chiefs while going 20-31 for 224 yards and an interception. The Patriots will likely set their defense to stop the NFL’s best running back, LeVeon Bell, and that will force Ben to make plays down the field early and most importantly it will put the pressure on him to produce on third down. Bell is a dual threat with the run and as a pass catcher and will have to deal with a Bill Bellechick defense that is amongst the NFL’s best against the run. Star wide receiver Antonio Brown had 6 catches for 108 yards last week and will have to deal with arguably the leagues best cover corner in Malcolm Brown who will likely shadow Brown regardless as to which side of the formation he lines up on.

The Patriots were the most dominant team in the league all season long and that was with quarterback Tom Brady missing the first 4 gamed due to a suspension. In the divisional round Dion Lewis made history by becoming the only player to score a receiving, rushing, and special team’s touchdown in the same game. The patriots running game changes frequently so the Steelers need to be ready for Lagarette Blount just and the rest of the Patriot running backs just as much as they will prepare for Lewis. Brady performed far below his usual standards last week as he threw 2 interceptions after only throwing 2 during the entire regular season. In all likelihood this will lead to an even more focused Brady heading into Sunday evening.

The Steelers come into the game as underdogs in a variety of ways. The Patriots are 16-3 at home during the Brady era and it will take a complete game from Pittsburgh to pull off the upset. A fast start for the Steelers would be greatly beneficial as the Patriots are the toughest team in the NFL to come back on once they have a lead. The Steelers have proven stars at Head Coach, Quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. If they use those properly and can find a defensive game plan to contain the Patriots offense they have a chance at the win.

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