Friday, January 09, 2009

NFL Divisional Playoffs Pre-Game Analysis: San Diego at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Do’s and Don’t’s

Do take advantage of the renewed health on the league’s most dominant defense. NFL Defensive MVP James Harrison, safety Ryan Clark, and corner Bryant McFadden are all ready to go. Somewhere, Norv Turner is wondering why his prayers went unanswered.

Do get Big Ben and the receivers in rhythm early. The Chargers defense is not the best against the pass, and gives up a lot of yardage. Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Nate Washington and Heath Miller all need to step up to take the pressure off Roethlisburger and Parker who are playing this game below 100%.

Do pray for the worst weather. The Chargers will be out of their cozy southern California element. If the weather is cold and rainy at Heinz Field, the Steelers will have a big advantage.

Don’t get 13 penalties for 115 yards like the last time against the Bolts. With Roethlisburger passing for 300+ and Parker rushing for 100+, it was still an 11-10 game. Discipline will go a long way in helping the Steelers move to the AFC Championship.

Don’t hesitate to bring in Leftwich if Roethlisburger is struggling. Big Ben suffered a nasty concussion in week 17 (where both of his arms went numb). Apparently Tomlin has dismissed the notion of pulling Big Ben, but that could be a mistake. Leftwich isn’t your run-of-the-mill backup. He has a lot of valuable experience as a starter, and should be ready to step up.

San Diego Do’s and Don’t’s

Do get Darren Sproles heavily involved. In their first meeting of the clubs, Sproles only handled the ball three times. Obviously, if Tomlinson is out for this game, Sproles will get the lion’s share of touches.

Do attack through the air and let Phillip Rivers’s hot hand do the damage. In the Colts game, we saw Gates, Jackson, Chambers and Sproles get looks. That should continue. Hopefully Vincent Jackson isn’t held out of the game for the DUI.

Do let your front seven control the game. Feeding off the nasty play from the defensive line (Williams, Castillo & Olshansky) over the last 5 games, this defense blossomed, giving opposing QBs fits as they don’t have much time to make their throws.

Don’t let this turn into the 11-10 knock-down drag-out match earlier in the season. The Steelers will take the close game. They have the more seasoned team. And another Polamalu invisible TD could send fans over the edge, and the media trolling for hours to figure out what the final score should have been.

Don’t count on Kaeding with the game on the line. He has a history of choking in the playoffs. However, don’t fret when punting. If Mike Scifres punts like he did against the Colts, the field position battle heavily favors the Bolts. Any offense with their back against the end-zone plays a much more conservative offense, and the Bolts defense could capitalize.

Key Matchups:

When Pittsburgh has the Ball
C Justin Hartwig vs. NT Jamal Williams
Jamal Williams has been straight-up NASTY lately. He has as much to do with the success of the San Diego defense late in the season as anyone. Hartwig is one of the most underrated centers in the league. Steelers FB Carey Davis might need to step up and help out.

When San Diego has the Ball
TE Antonio Gates vs. Troy Polamalu
Antonio Gates has recently looked like the Gates of old, who was one of the most prolific pass receiving TEs in the game. Polamalu will probably draw this assignment on most pass plays. This is one of those classic battles where you have two of the best players at their respective positions facing off. Definitely keep this match up in your periphery when the Chargers are in the Red Zone.


Game Day Interview

Like Rex Ryan of the Ravens and Jim Schwartz of the Titans, this is also the case-study portion of Ron Rivera’s job interview on the sidelines. Expect more of the same stuff you saw in the Wild Card Playoff game against the Colts.

Ride the Streak

The streak is at 5 games, and coming off a win against a very hot Colts team, the Bolts are on a high. The question is: What team is going to show up? The Bolts who are on a rampage, tearing through any team in their path, or a team with an inflated ego facing a dominant Steelers defense who’s ready to burst their bubble?

Final Score Prediction
Steelers edge the Bolts 23-21

1 comment:

Sum said...

In the spirit of the first game, I vote:

San Diego-11