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AFCCG: Steelers @ Patriots
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who heads to Houston?
Steelers
21%
 21%  [ 7 ]
Patriots
78%
 78%  [ 25 ]
Total Votes : 32

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Starless


Joined: 05 Jan 2015
Posts: 11267
Location: The worst of all possible realities
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:28 am    Post subject: AFCCG: Steelers @ Patriots Reply with quote

PITTSBURGH STEELERS at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Sunday, January 22, 6:40 pm
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA


Injury report:


Last meeting: Patriots 27, Steelers 16 (Week 7, 2016)
Last 10 meetings: Patriots 7 wins, Steelers 3 wins (dating back to 2004)
Last playoff meeting: Patriots 41, Steelers 27 (2004 AFCCG)

Each team comes into the game having not lost since week 10. The Patriots have won their last 8 with an average margin of victory of 16.4 points. The Steelers have had a more challenging time in winning their last 9, needing 4th quarter comebacks to secure the AFC North title against the Bengals and Ravens in weeks 15 and 16 and stopping the Chiefs on a 2 point conversion attempt to survive a late surge by them in the Divisional round.
The first meeting between these two teams in week 7 will be considered irrelevant by many observers, as the Steelers were without starting QB Ben Roethlisberger for that game.

Keys to the game

When the Patriots have the ball:
Tom Brady has had his way with the Steelers throughout his career, owning a 9-2 career record in 11 starts against Pittsburgh (including a perfect 4-0 at home) and has not thrown an interception against them since 2005. The Steelers come into the game with the league's 14th ranked pass defense (in opponent passer rating). Their secondary is young but they play aggressively and tackle well, as evidenced by the fact that players like Julian Edelman, Odell Beckham and Tyreek Hill have struggled to make yards after the catch against them. With the Patriots coming off a game in which the offense was uncharacteristically reliant on deep throws to move the ball, one of the underappreciated questions coming in is whether they will try a similar approach against Pittsburgh, or scheme to try to get their wideouts and backs the ball in space.
Perhaps the biggest question facing the Patriots offense is what kind of production they'll get out of the tight end position, which has been the Achilles heel for the Steelers all season. In week 7 it wasn't until Brady started feeding the ball to Rob Gronkowski in the second half that the team was able to pull away from the Steelers. With Gronk out, Martellus Bennett will get called upon to pick up the slack. Bennett has had a quiet second half of the season, nursing an ankle and (more recently) knee injury. If he's not 100%, perhaps we will see more of Matt Lengel than we're accustomed to.
The health of WRs Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan bears monitoring. Mitchell has missed the least two games with a knee, and Hogan left the Texans game with a thigh bruise. Both are expected to play, but if they are at all limited, the Patriots could have difficulty moving the ball through the air.

Pittsburgh's pass rush has improved considerably since the return of Bud Dupree to the lineup. Last week the Texans used edge rusher Whitney Mercilus on inside stunts frequently and successfully got great pressure against Brady throughout the first half thanks to confusion on the part of the Pats' OL. The Pats were able to adjust to the tactic in the second half, but they should be prepared to see the Steelers attempt the same thing with Dupree, who is one of the best athletes in the league at the position, looping in through the A-gap. On the other side, James Harrison is still capable of being a handful for opposing tackles. Whether Brady stays upright could hinge on whether Nate Solder is able to handle him 1-on-1.

In week 7 LeGarrette Blount ran for a season-high 127 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24 carries. Since that game, the Steelers have only allowed two running backs - Ezekiel Elliott and Isaiah Crowell - to gain more than 60 yards on the ground against them. With Blount having slowed down over the last quarter of the season (averaging 3.14 yards per carry since week 15), it may make sense for the Patriots to make Dion Lewis the featured back in this game, as he gives the offense greater flexibility as a dual threat.


When the Steelers have the ball:
It's all about the triplets - perhaps more so than ever. Ben Roethlisberger could very well be the weak link in this trio (inasmuch as there is one). He has, for one reason or another, played poorly on the road this year (a 78.4 passer rating away from Heinz Field, 38 points lower than at home). And since 2010 his postseason performances overall have been less than stellar. However, he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a headache for opposing defenses with his ability to extend plays. And on top of that, he's been better protected this year than he ever has been.

In week 7 the Patriots were one of the four teams to hold Le'Veon Bell under 4 yards per carry. They were also, with the the exception of one 22-yard catch and run, able to prevent him from breaking any big plays. If they wish to repeat that performance, they'll need to do what they've done much of the year, and that is play with great gap discipline up front, and not allow Bell to use his legendary patience to wait for holes to develop. Trey Flowers, who has been the Patriots' best defensive lineman over the second half of the season, will be in the spotlight. Flowers only played 20 snaps in week 7 (he has played more than 2/3 of defensive snaps since week 8) and will, on first and second down, be tasked with controlling the gap between LT Marcus Gilbert and LG David DeCastro who have been the most effective run blocking duo in the NFL. Linebackers Shea McClellin (10 snaps 0 tackles) and Kyle Van Noy (not yet with the team), who did not figure into the week 7 results, will be tasked with limiting Bell's effectiveness on perimeter runs and in the passing game.

The matchup between Malcolm Butler and Antonio Brown has been one of the most entertaining in the NFL over the last couple of meetings, to the extent that it spawned a Domino's Pizza tv ad. But while Butler has been as competitive in 1-on-1 coverage against Brown as any corner can be, Brown has been able to make enough plays against the Pats' top CB that Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia may look into changing things up against the league's best wideout, using combination coverage against him the way they did against DeAndre Hopkins in their games against the Texans, and lining up Butler against Eli Rogers. Tight end Jesse James had a big game at Kansas City and will pose a challenge for Patrick Chung, over whom he has an 8-inch height advantage.

Ultimately the Steelers' success on offense may come down to playcalling. Despite their overall potency, the Steelers ranked just 14th in the league in red zone TD percentage. This is due largely to offensive coordinator Todd Haley's tendency to get a bit too cute with his play selection in the red area. The Steelers' best chance might be for Haley to go against type and run the ball on the goal line (Bell has just 18 carries inside the opponents' 10 yard line this season).
Unforced errors have also been a problem for Roethlisberger, who has thrown 9 interceptions in 9 road games this year. If the Patriots can generate pressure with their front-4 (something they've struggled to do for much of the season) and disguise their coverages effectively, they have a strong potential to force him into similar mistakes.


Special teams:
The Patriots got their first kick return touchdown since 2013 last week against the Texans. They also saw the same player fumble the next kickoff he handled, which led directly to a Houston touchdown. Guess which one they've been hearing more about during the week. Ball security on returns has been an issue for the Patriots all year (a league-high 7 fumbles), so it will bear watching what they'll do with their kick return team against a Steelers kickoff team that has been known to kick it short.
On the other side, the Steelers have been relatively drama-free in the return game (just 2 fumbles on the season). They have, however, had some difficulty covering kickoffs, allowing an average return of 24.7 yards (3rd worst in the league) while the Patriots have excelled in this area, allowing just 19.3 yards per kick return (3rd best). The Patriots have also excelled covering punts, allowing an average of just 4.9 yards per punt return.
In short, if this game is to turn on a special teams miscue, it's more likely to come on the Patriots side, but if they can avoid coughing up the ball they have a decided advantage in this area.


Last edited by Starless on Sun Jan 22, 2017 1:24 pm; edited 9 times in total
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DMG


Joined: 22 Oct 2014
Posts: 1112
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm worried about this one.
_________________
JBURGE25 wrote:
Devin Kurant wrote:
A sautéed salmon was pretty good then disappeared with Philly and Atlanta at least to my memory.


This can't possibly be an autocorrect for Asante Samuel.....
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Starless


Joined: 05 Jan 2015
Posts: 11267
Location: The worst of all possible realities
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DMG wrote:
I'm worried about this one.
of course you are
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PatriotsWin!


Joined: 10 Jan 2007
Posts: 21291
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Blowout. Pats win 38- 17

Don't know why, just a feeling. Laughing
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Mack on the sig
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DMG


Joined: 22 Oct 2014
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Random stat: This is the 3rd time we'll be facing an NFC North team for the AFC Championship while Atlanta plays in the NFC Championship.
_________________
JBURGE25 wrote:
Devin Kurant wrote:
A sautéed salmon was pretty good then disappeared with Philly and Atlanta at least to my memory.


This can't possibly be an autocorrect for Asante Samuel.....
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Starless


Joined: 05 Jan 2015
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Location: The worst of all possible realities
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Damn, has it really been 12 years since these teams faced each other in the playoffs? Seems unlikely considering they're both in it more often than not.
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mcmurtry86


Joined: 02 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DMG wrote:
Random stat: This is the 3rd time we'll be facing an NFC North team for the AFC Championship while Atlanta plays in the NFC Championship.


Uh ok Laughing
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mcmurtry86


Joined: 02 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DMG wrote:
I'm worried about this one.


No, you're not. You already declared the season over and this game lost.

Of course, you also said Bill Belichick should be fired for trading AJ Derby so clearly you like humiliating yourself for laughs.
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Starless


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Location: The worst of all possible realities
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mcmurtry86 wrote:
DMG wrote:
Random stat: This is the 3rd time we'll be facing an NFC North team for the AFC Championship while Atlanta plays in the NFC Championship.


Uh ok Laughing
This is the rare statement that's both factually accurate and incredibly stupid.
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mcmurtry86


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Starless wrote:
mcmurtry86 wrote:
DMG wrote:
Random stat: This is the 3rd time we'll be facing an NFC North team for the AFC Championship while Atlanta plays in the NFC Championship.


Uh ok Laughing
This is the rare statement that's both factually accurate and incredibly stupid.


Factually accurate huh?
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Starless


Joined: 05 Jan 2015
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Location: The worst of all possible realities
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mcmurtry86 wrote:
Starless wrote:
mcmurtry86 wrote:
DMG wrote:
Random stat: This is the 3rd time we'll be facing an NFC North team for the AFC Championship while Atlanta plays in the NFC Championship.


Uh ok Laughing
This is the rare statement that's both factually accurate and incredibly stupid.


Factually accurate huh?
Yeah. Atlanta was in the NFC title game in 2004 (Pats faced Steelers) and 2012 (Ravens).

I'm sure he meant AFC North.
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mcmurtry86


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Starless wrote:
mcmurtry86 wrote:
Starless wrote:
mcmurtry86 wrote:
DMG wrote:
Random stat: This is the 3rd time we'll be facing an NFC North team for the AFC Championship while Atlanta plays in the NFC Championship.


Uh ok Laughing
This is the rare statement that's both factually accurate and incredibly stupid.


Factually accurate huh?
Yeah. Atlanta was in the NFC title game in 2004 (Pats faced Steelers) and 2012 (Ravens).


Factually accurate, huh?
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wackywabbit


Joined: 20 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting... so the Pats actually have to play a game before showing up to the super bowl?
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Starless


Joined: 05 Jan 2015
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Location: The worst of all possible realities
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dude, it's midnight. Typo-noticing hours end at 10pm.
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mcmurtry86


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2017 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wackywabbit wrote:
Interesting... so the Pats actually have to play a game before showing up to the super bowl?


I give this post 1 out of 10 troll points.
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