Sunday, January 23, 2011

AFC Championship Gameday: New York Jets

Heinz Field
Radio: 102.5 WDVE

What To Watch For

1. Running the Ball

The Jets have had success running the ball all season. They ran for over 100 yards as a team against the Steelers either this year. Furthermore, they were able to use their ground game to control the clock against both New England and Indianapolis and keep Tom Brady and Peyton Manning off the field. However, the Colts were 25th in the league in run defense and had a secondary decimated by injury. The Patriots were 11th in the league in run defense but 25th in the league in total defense. On the other side, the Steelers had the best run defense, not only in the league this year, but one of the best in league history, allowing barely over 1000 yards on the whole season. The next closest team, the Chicago Bears, allowed over 400 yards more than the Steelers did on the ground. That's incredible. On the other side, Rashard Mendenhall had 99 yards against the Jets the last time we played them. For the team that was #3 in the league in run defense, it's a great sign that the Steelers were able to exert themselves in the trenches and have success running the ball. The team that runs the ball better will most likely win this game.

2. Special Teams

In the first game against the Jets, Special Teams made the difference in the game. The Steelers gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown on the opening play of the game. Later, the Jets punter pinned the Steelers back at their own 2 yard line, which led to a safety, giving the Jets a 5-point lead. That safety was one of the deciding factors in the game, as it forced the Steelers to go for a touchdown rather than a game-tying field goal.

3. Defensive Backs

Darrelle Revis is one of the best corners in the league. We know that. We've heard it all week. But on the other side, while Antonio Cromartie is tall and physical, he can be beat with underneath routes and isn't a very good tackler. Last game, Cromartie covered Wallace and Revis covered Ward. Wallace had over 100 yards receiving and Manny Sanders had a big game. If the Steelers are going to succeed, they are going to need to create matchups, either out of the slot or simply by spreading the Jets out and making their 3rd and 4th defensive backs cover guys like Sanders, Brown, and Heath Miller. On the other side, Ike Taylor is one of the most under-rated players in the league. He drew Santonio Holmes last game and figures to do the same this game, but don't be surprised to see him opposite Braylon Edwards a few times. Edwards had a great game last time the Jets were in Pittsburgh, and it will be interesting to see if the Steelers march out Ike Taylor or the B-Mac/Willie Gay tandem to cover Edwards.

4. Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller

In the first game against the Jets, there were a few key plays that turned the tide of the game. Matt Spaeth, filling in for the injured Heath Miller, was targeted 8 times but had only 3 catches. Two of those "targets" came on the last two plays of the game where he inadvertently knocked a touchdown pass away from Manny Sanders then couldn't make a catch on the sidelines on the last play of the game. You've got to believe that Heath will have a better game this week thans Spaeth did earlier this season. Secondly, Ryan Mundy had a sure-fire shot to sack Sanchez when he came untouched on a blitz. Mundy missed Sanchez, turning a sack into a first down and more when Sanchez chucked it downfield for Braylon Edwards. You have to think that Troy and Heath will make a world of difference in this game.

5. Ed Hochuli

"Guns" has been given the honor of officiating the AFC Championship game. Ed and his crew are known for throwing a lot of flags and calling a lot of penalties. That said, here's to hoping that the penalties are fair, particularly with regards to the Jets offensive line holding James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

Behind Enemy Lines

This week's Behind Enemy Lines guest is Eric M from Jets Twit, a site about the Jets and social media. Hit up Eric on Twitter. He'll be at the game, so not sure how much bashing he'll hear.

1. The Jets have made a '05 Steelers-esque run through the playoffs, beating the #3 and #1 seed to reach the AFC Championship Game against the #2 seed. What have you been most impressed with from the Jets in their second straight run to the AFC Championship Game?

The fact that the Jets defeated Peyton Manning AND Tom Brady on the road in back to back games.  It was the first time in history a team accomplished that. 

2. Mark Sanchez, while not having a statistically great game the last time these two teams met, was very effective throwing the ball. The Jets running game gave them enough against the Steelers defense to let Sanchez manage the game rather than force him to make the plays to beat us. Do you think the Jets will stick with their run-first mentality they have held against the weaker run defenses of Indy and New England or will they open it up and attack the Steelers through the air?

I believe the Jets always attempt to start fast with attempt being the key word.  They are very slow starters.  They want to put up points first, so they may mix in the run and pass to get going and if they are able to put up a lead, they will start to slow the game down and keep the other offense off the field.  This was exactly the formula they used the past two weeks.  Now they are going to need big plays once again from the defense and special teams.  By causing the other team to make mistakes, they were able to capitalize with field position and then scoring.  The offense has not been able to do it alone.

If you're a Steelers fan, re-read that last sentence. That pretty much sums up everything you need to know.

3. What Steeler worries you the most? What matchup do you think favors the Steelers the most? Which matchup favors the Jets the most?

Big Ben.  He plays big and is a very difficult force to bring down.  Even when a defender seems to have him, Ben can muscle himself out of the issue and make a play.  He scares me.  

The Steelers run defense is impressive.  In the previous matchup this season, they held the Jets to 3.9 yards per carry with a total of 106 yards.  It forced Mark to win the game by going to the air to Braylon Edwards and we relied on Brad Smith's kick return.  He is hurt but I'm hoping Cromartie can continue to be successful.

The Jets Braylon Edwards matches well against your DBs.  His last game he was Mark's main target with 8 REC for 100 yards.  He has been playing big in the playoffs and I look for him and Holmes to have big games.

4. In the lead-up to this game, a lot of the talk has been centered on Ben Roethlisberger vs Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes vs his old team, and Wallace/Ward vs Revis/Cromartie. However, in the last game it was Jason Taylor who made the biggest play of the game. Are there any "under the radar" players you think will have a big impact on this game?

Don't fall asleep on Dustin Keller.  If the Steelers focus on the WR's, Dustin has proven he can have very big games this season.  I think he matches up well as he plays more like a WR than a TE and may have the speed advantage on your linebackers.

5. Any other final thoughts?

The New York Jets have won only ONCE on the road in the State of PA.  I'm hoping they can make it consecutive wins at Heinz Field to send them to their first Super Bowl in 42 YEARS!   I will be at the game cheering on Gang Green in section 122 Row S.  J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!! 

Neither the Jets nor the Steelers have been known this season for starting fast. However, if the Steelers can get out to an early lead and take the Jets running game out of the game, they'll put the ball in Mark Sanchez's hands and force him to make throws to beat us.

Win or lose, this is the last time the Steelers will step onto Heinz Field this season. Let's give them a send-off they'll never forget!



Happy Birthday Myron.


1 comment:

The Beat Doctor said...

Join in me in spreading the "FEAR THE BEARD" campaign, as well as encouraging Steeler nation to 'beard up' in the two weeks leading up to the big game. I have a few Keisel Beardisms to set the mood. Just a taste:

"The world's greatest scientists were able to stretch out a single strand of Brett Keisel's beard until it was 727 feet high and 1,244 feet across. That strand now plays defense against the Colorado River, and is commonly referred to as 'The Hoover Dam.'"