As you begin to breakdown Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers it becomes increasingly obvious that the line play will determine the outcome of the game. Now that point can be made for most games in the NFL, but for this match-up both the Jets and Steelers build their game plans around winning the battles in the trenches. If the Jets are going to move on to Super Bowl XLV, both the offensive and defensive lines must impose their will on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In order for the Jets to have success on Sunday Gang Green must be able to run the ball against one of the best rush defenses in football. The Pittsburgh Steelers defense ended the regular season ranked #1 against the run, allowing only 62 yards a game. Pittsburgh continued that dominating style of play in the postseason, as they held the Ravens to 35 yards rushing last week.
While the Steelers defensive numbers are impressive, Gang Green’s offense has had the same type of success running the ball this season. The Jets offense ended the regular season ranked 4th in rushing, and has continued to run the ball well in the playoffs. Against the Colts the Jets rushed for 169 yards (NYL protection index rating 80.9) , and the offense followed that up performance with 120 rushing yards (NYL protection index rating 93.7) against the Patriots.
So in the end the Jets success on offense will be contingent on how the offensive line performs. If Gang Green’s offensive line is able to win the battles in the trenches and run the ball, they can take some of the pressure off of quarterback Mark Sanchez and the passing game. If the Jets ground game sputters, their offense could become one dimensional which is never a recipe for success against the Pittsburgh defense.
The New York Jets defensive line will have their hands full containing the Steelers offense as they not only have to worry about the running game, but also about the mobility of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Gang Green’s defense ended the regular season ranked 3rd against the run, so they should be able to limit Rashard Mendenhall and the Pittsburgh running attack. The concern is in the passing game where the Jets defensive line must not only get pressure on Roethlisberger, but also must keep him in the pocket in order to avoid big plays down field. Big Ben does an excellent job of buying time in the pocket, which allows his receivers time to break coverage.
The Jets defensive line must find ways to control the line of scrimmage while generating a consistent pass rush that either sacks Big Ben, or at least keeps him contained. If the Jets have to start relying on blitz packages to generate a pass rush, they could be in for a long day.
News and Notes
Pep rally announced- The New York Jets announced that they will be having a AFC Championship game playoff rally on Thursday January 20th at 5:30 pm. For more information check out www.newyorkjets.com
Jets/SNY extend partnership– On Tuesday the New York Jets announced that they have extended their television and marketing partnership with SNY. For Jets fans this is great news as you cannot get any better coverage than what is provided by SNY. (Note: the terms of the extension were not announced)