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AFC Championship Game
Jets vs. Steelers
Betting Line: Steelers -3.5 o/u 38.5
These Jets just won't go away. They aren't the most talented team in the NFL. They didn't put up the best numbers in the NFL this year and they certainly didn't dominate games this year the way we often see eventual Super Bowl Champs dominate. But they have won games when they have had to, and they have gone toe to toe with some of the best teams in the league, including beating these Steelers a few weeks ago in their building. It's safe to say the Jets have just as good of a chance to win it all as the other three remaining teams. Not much separates them.
One significant difference this time around for the Steelers is that Troy Polamalu will be on the field. He didn't play against the Jets December 19th. The guy is a game changer. He has to be worth close to a field goal in the line all by himself. How often have we seen this guy either pick off a pass and take it in for a TD or at the very least set his team up with great field position. How many safety's in the NFL have as much of an impact? None.
You have to tip your hat to the Jets. Two years in a row this team is in the AFC Title game. They have a QB who is only in his 2nd year in the league and the guy is 4-1 in playoff games. Likewise their coach, Mr. Ryan. They have built a solid football team that can run the ball well. Sanchez has 3 very talented receivers working for him and the Jets can also play some defense. They have a strong secondary (ask Tom Brady) and are very good against the run. Their pass rush has been criticized but it looks like that aspect of their game has also hit it's stride as we saw Peyton Manning and Tom Brady hit the ground several times.
Unlike the Jets though, the Steelers have really beaten teams up this year. The Steelers have what we would call, playoff numbers. After years of handicapping NFL teams, you come to easily recognize these numbers. Hey, it doesn't take a rocket scientist. It's not that the Jets haven't put up some nice numbers. It's just that the Steelers numbers are off the charts in some categories.
Specifically on the defensive side of the ball. While both teams are very
good against the run, the Jets gave up eight 100+ yard game while the Steelers
had just 2. It was mentioned last week that this is the best Steelers team
against the run EVER. Now that's saying something, because as we all know, the
Steelers have had some damn good defensive teams in their history.
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We took a quick look at the last 5 games each team played. The Jets averaged 344 yards of offense and gave up 309. They outscored their opponents 28-20 in that stretch. The Steelers averaged 364 yards of offense and gave up on average 187. Wow. They outscored their opponents 28-13 in those 5 games.
You would think the Jets would have a little edge as a result of playing in this game a year ago. It's so rare in sports, as a player, to make it to a game of this magnitude, lose, and then get a 2nd chance the following year, or ever for that matter. Last years loss to the Colts in this game is still very fresh in their minds. Last year they knocked on the door, this year they want to break it in. But more than a few teams have had that chance in the past, and not all took advantage. Just ask the Cleveland Browns. They were in this game 3 out of 4 years and lost every single one.
The first AFC Championship game was played in 1970. It's been played 40 times since. Only 3 times has the game been decided by a field goal. That's not to say this one won't, but it should serve as a reminder to simply focus on picking the straight up winner in a game like this. So who's the straight up winner?
We're always going to be straight forward with our readers. If we are betting a game ourselves, we tell you why and we release it as a Key Release. If we are not betting a game, but still have a strong opinion one way or another, we will tell you so, and will list that team as a strong opinion. Lastly, if we're torn between two sides, we'll also tell you. Such is the case here.
Our gut says the Jets. It's a great story. A return to the Super Bowl after 42 years. Joe Namath. The Big Apple. Plus it's always nice from a fan perspective to have some different teams in the big game. Most fans outside of Pittsburgh have had their fill of the Steelers.
From a handicapping perspective, it's close. No question the Jets can win. They beat the Steelers here a few weeks ago. They beat the mighty Pats on the road as well as Peyton Manning. But what would make us lean towards the Steelers here are those "playoff numbers" we mentioned earlier. Outscoring opponents down the stretch 28-13, giving up on average 187 yards per game, having the best run defense of ALL Steelers teams EVER. The big game experience. Rothlisberger. Polamalu, Ward. The home field edge. The Jets having to beat the Steelers TWICE in their own building. You can't ignore all of those intangibles.
This is s no play for us. We're going to watch it and enjoy it for what it is. A great football game. Something else worth pointing out from a wagering standpoint. You don't have to have an opinion BEFORE the game starts to find good wagering opportunities. Aside from standard halftime bets that all sportsbooks offer, a few, such as 5 Dimes, offer in game betting. When the game goes to commercial break, log in to your 5 Dimes account and check the constantly updated game odds while the game is in progress. You can find some great opportunities this way and can even get off a bad position you took before the game started. Definitely worth checking out.