New York Jets (13-5 SU, 11-7 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4 SU,
11-6-0 ATS), AFC Championship Game, 6:30 p.m. EST, Sunday, January
23, 2011, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa., TV: CBS
by Badger of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: NYJ +3.5/PIT -3.5
Over/Under Total: 38.5
The road to Super Bowl 45 that everyone thought would go through
Foxborough will instead be going through Pittsburgh this weekend,
when the New York Jets hit the road one more time for a trip to Heinz
Field for a showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC
Championship game Sunday on CBS.
The Jets and their head coach Rex Ryan sure talked a lot of talk last
week, but then they went out and walked it with a huge, 28-21, upset
of the top-seeded New England Patriots Sunday in Foxborough.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for three scores and protected the
ball, and the Jets defense swarmed Tom Brady and never let the
Patriots offense get any rhythm to help the Jets knock off the mighty
Peyton Manning and Brady in back-to-back weeks.
Pittsburgh survived a third battle against the rival Baltimore Ravens
on Saturday, 31-24, then they watched like everyone else as the Jets
took down the Patriots to give the Steelers another AFC playoff game
in front of the home fans at Heinz Field. Home field helped fuel the
Steelers 24-to-3-point second-half rally to topple the Ravens in the
Divisional round, so getting a second chance to play at home for the
right to move on to Dallas is a huge bonus they hope to not let slip
through their fingers.
The problem for the Steelers is that the Jets certainly wont be intimidated by having to play at Pittsburgh. Not only have the Jets
gotten the job done on the road thus far in the playoffs in hostile
surroundings, but they beat the Steelers, 22-17, in week 15 of the
regular season on December 19th.
Oddsmakers opened the AFC title game with the Steelers as the
standard 3-point favorites at home in Heinz Field. The little bit of
money that has trickled in to the betting window in the first 12
hours since the number was released has been coming in on Pittsburgh,
causing a few offshore sportsbooks to move their point spread up to
3.5-points. All of the sportsbooks in Las Vegas also list the number
at 3.5 on their boards, so the early steam is on Pittsburgh right now.
The over/under total opened at 38.5 at most sportsbooks on the Web,
but its already been moved up to 39 at most of the bigger ones on
the Internet (SportsInteraction, 5Dimes, BetUS). However, you can
still find plenty of 38.5s if you still want the hook to take the
push out of play on your total wager.
A Jets-Steelers AFC title game offers some interesting angles on
offense because both teams are very similar in scheme, trying to
possess the ball in long stretches with a potent ground game and then
play-action pass over the top of it for big plays.
The Steelers are a little bit more of a threat for the big play with
Ben Roethlisberger and his deep threat Mike Wallace able to strike so
quickly, but the Jets are probably the only team in the league able
to negate that threat with the corner tandem of Darrelle Revis and
The Steelers would love to lean on running back Rashard Mendenhall
more this week, but he hasnt had a 100-yard week since week 10
versus Buffalo and injuries along the offensive lines right side
(tackle Flozell Adams and backup Chris Scott both listed as
questionable) could limit the play selection to the left side of the
field. The good news is that Mendenhall did have 99 yards rushing
against the Jets in their week 15 matchup, and a 5.8 yard per carry
average which should serve as inspiration for the Steelers to keep
pounding away at the Jets on the ground.
The Jets offense will be facing its toughest test in the playoffs
thus far and the Steelers defensive line just doesnt allow teams to
run the ball against them with much success, so it will be
interesting to see how offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer
game plans for Sunday. Sanchez and his ability to pick up blitzes at
the line of scrimmage will determine whether or not the Jets will
convert enough third-downs to keep the Jets defense fresh and off the
In the week 15 matchup the Jets only had 276 yards of total offense,
but they also only gave up one sack and didnt commit a single
turnover, so staying as close to that type of performance will be
crucial for Sanchez and the Jets offense.
The week 15 matchup ultimately was decided by special teams (Brad
Smith returned the opening kickoff for a TD) and defense (a late Jets
safety), so the punting of Steve Weatherford and clutch kicking of
Nick Folk gives the Jets a sizeable advantage over the Steelers
tandem of Jeremy Kapinos (a mid-season FA pickup) and journeyman
kicker Shaun Suisham.
There are some solid betting trends in this game if you like to bet
along those lines, but the problem is that like most trends they go
The Jets are road warriors (12-4 ATS last 16 road games) and are a
solid 4-1 ATS in their last five visits to Pittsburgh, including this
season (as 3.5-point underdogs) and their 20-17 overtime loss to the
Steelers in the 2005 playoffs (as 9.5-point dogs).
However, Pittsburgh just doesnt lose in the playoffs going 5-0 ATS
in their last five home playoff games and 8-1 ATS in their last nine
playoff games overall.
On paper you would imagine that the under is a great wager with these
two defenses, and it has turned out that way in five of the last
seven head-to-head meetings (under is 5-2). But that runs completely
contrary to the way these teams have performed in the playoffs, with
the over going 14-2 in Pittsburgh last 16 playoff games. The over is
also 10-1 in the Jets last 11 road games overall and 5-2 in their
last seven road playoff games.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I believe that this will be a very close game throughout. I see the Steelers winning straight up here but the Jets getting the cover, losing by 3 points or less. Take the J-E-T-S to get the money this weekend.
Be sure to check out my take on the NFC Championship game too! Find it right here: Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Pick.