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This Sunday, Championship Sunday begins and it will end with bang as the Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5) travel to face the New England Patriots (15-2). The Steelers have been the hottest team in the league record wise winning nine straight games. They’ve won by blowing out teams, close games and ugly games. Meanwhile, the Patriots have been the most consistent team in the league and they look to continue playing sound and great football to advance to the Super Bowl. They met earlier this year with the Patriots winning 27-16 (Ben Roethlisberger didn’t play in the game).
Keys To The Game
The Steelers have the luxury of dominating the game by either rushing the ball with running back Le”Veon Bell or using the passing game by utilizing their top wide receiver Antonio Brown. Running the ball might be key due to the fact that the Patriots may have to bring an extra man in the box to stop the run. This will not only free up the passing game but it can ease Roethlisberger, who has struggled against the Patriots in his career, into the game. The defense has to keep the momentum going that they have built up since the Wildcard game against the Miami Dolphins. They must get pressure on quarterback Tom Brady early to disrupt the passing game but mostly important, don’t let running back Legarrette Blount get loose and contain him to make the Patriots one dimensional.
New England’s defense has been steady this year. As stated earlier, the Steelers can hurt you multiple ways. If they can pick their poison which should be the passing game and key in on Bell, it might make the passing game easier to defend especially with the history of Roethlisberger against the Patriots. Cornerback Malcolm Butler will have the duty of covering Brown possibly with no help, therefore the rest of the defense has to do their parts to control the rest of the field. On offense, if they can bully the Steelers on the ground and mix in a few play-action passes, they will have the opportunity to burn the Steelers deep. Brady has to find Julian Edelman early and often which will open up the rest of the field.
The X-factor for the Steelers is linebacker Bud Dupree. Dupree doesn’t get that much recognition but the second year player needs to grow up in this game and be the player they chose him to be. Dupree on first and second downs, will be depended on to rush Brady, play in some zone coverage and stop the run. Dupree using his speed in coverage will be key for those quick slants and screen plays. If his presence is felt in the running game disrupting plays in the backfield, then that can free up the other linebackers to play their position and not have to compensate for what Dupree is lacking.
The X-Factor for the Patriots will be running back James White. White will be used like the former Patriot running back Kevin Faulk. With White’s ability to run between and outside the tackle plus be able to catch out the backfield or line up wide can cause matchup problems when he’s in the game. He needs to have at least 16 touches on offense and the offense will be able to keep the Steelers guessing on defense.
Prediction: Brady’s record against the Steelers is 7-2 all-time and he shall be able to have great success against the Steelers’ defense on Sunday but unfortunately the Steelers’ offense is too potent and will be difference in the game. 31-27 Steelers.