Don't miss 5 reasons why the Pats will win
Five Reasons why the Patriots will lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
1. The Steelers offense will do just enough to effective against the Patriots defense.
The Steelers average 21.5 points per game. That ranks them 23rd in the NFL in points scored per game. Hardly eye popping numbers, but good enough to help take some of the pressure off of their number one ranked defense. The Steelers are going against a Patriots team who may or may not have Ty Warren and Richard Seymour in the lineup due to injury. If the Patriots are missing either one of these players on defense it will be a difficult day for them. Not to say it would not be difficult anyway with Warren and Seymour. It will be a heck of a lot easier with them. If both are out the Patriots face an insurmountable task to control the Pittsburgh offense and time of possession.
Even when healthy the Patriots have had a hard time getting off of the field defensively on third down. The Patriots have allowed their opponents to convert third downs 44% of the time (59 out of 134 third down attempts have been successful.) The Steelers convert on 40% of their third down attempts (60 out of 150 attempts).
|Cassel will need to use his feet|
2. Cassel is greatly improved but needs to prove he can handle the blitz and quarterback pressures.
Is there anyone out that that will not admit Matt Cassel is among the most improved players in football from the beginning of the season until now? Cassel has put together back to back 400 yard passing games. Even the reigning MVP, Tom Brady has never accomplished that. Cassel did lead a last minute drive in regulation verses the New York Jets throwing a touchdown pass to Randy Moss with one second left. It was not Cassel's fault that the Patriots lost the game. However the Patriots did lose. Brady somehow found a way to win those type of games regardless of defensive problems. When has Brady ever lost an overtime game? And although Cassel was great that game, doesn't a lot of the credit belong to Randy Moss who made a great catch with Ty Law all over him while keeping his feet inbounds?
Cassel will face constant pressure and blitzes from Pittsburgh's number one ranked defense. Brady faced the same pressure from the Steelers great defense last year and simply touched the Steelers defense. As good as Cassel has played he has yet to prove he can handle the pressure and blitzed throw at him by a great defensive team and Josh McDaniels needs to prove he can match wits and come up with an effective game plan against the tough Steelers defense.
3. Which team needs the game more and is more experienced in big games?
The Patriots need the game more than the Steelers. Both teams have been in its share of big games so the answer may come down to the quarterback play. Ben Roethlisberger has not only played in a Super bowl but has won a Super bowl as well. He has also played against a Bill Belichick defense. Although on more than one occasion the Patriots have gotten the better out of Roethlisberger he has experienced what will be coming and that gives him an advantage over Cassel. Over the last few weeks Cassel has shown he is making more than one read going to his second and third reads. That was when he has time. However these questions need to be asked: will Cassel revert back to his early season form if the Steelers blitz gets to him? Will Cassel look to run first instead of taking that extra second (and a hit) to find the open receiver? If the answers are both no, then the Patriot offense will have a better chance of succeeding against the leagues number one defense. If not, it will be a rather long day for the Patriot offense.
The Patriots should be able to find hole in the middle of the field for big gains if the offensive line and most importantly running backs pick up the blitz and give Cassel time. That leaves out Lamont Jordan who probably won't be seeing the field again this week. Kevin Faulk and Sammie Morris will be charged with that responsibility. I don't know about you but if Morris has stayed on top of the Kansas City defender in week one we would not know how good Cassel would have become. And the Patriots most likely would have had sole possession of first place. That's for another column at another time.
4. The Steelers defense will be the difference.
The Steelers defense has been better than advertised. They're allowing the fewest points in the league (14.5) and the fewest total yards (235.4). The difference between the Steelers defense and the NFL's No. 2 defense is nearly 30 yards per game. The Steelers are the only team in the league that's giving up fewer than 3.0 yards per rush. No one has scored more than 24 points against them this season, and they've held opponents to 10 points or less five times. The Steelers number one ranked secondary has allowed only one pass longer than 40 yards. The NFL's number one ranked scoring defense has allowed 17 points or less to seven of its 11 opponents this season.
The Patriots average 24.3 points a game. Given the above facts don't count on them reaching their scoring average. This is a big test maybe the biggest so far this season for McDaniels as an offensive coordinator and for Cassel as a quarterback. Unless they prove that they are up for the challenge the Patriots will not win this game. Both Cassel and McDaniels have to prove that they can go up against the leagues best defense and not wilt under pressure (Cassel) and able to adjust your game plan (McDaniel) if what you are doing isn't working.
This is the week where both really get to earn their money.
|Without Ty Warren, Pats will have trouble getting pressure|
(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
5. Patriots defense will not rise to the challenge.
As much as I have outlined the problems the offense will have the defense is the real key to this game. I have mostly talked about the offense because I don't believe the defense has what it takes to help the offense out. Dan Pees does not get a pass. In fact his name should be mentioned more and more as the Patriots defense so far this year is receiving a failing grade. Against the Jets in overtime with the Jets having the ball on their own 15 facing a 3rd and 15. No pressure on Favre and he completed a pass to a wide open tight end. First down and we all know the results of that game., a Patriot lose. Many fans on the Minuteman Forum have wondered "have the Patriots ever heard of a blitz? That would have been the perfect time to remind the defense what a blitz is. If the defense is not getting pressure on the quarterback, it is the defensive coordinators job to come up with something that will create pressure. Allowing teams to convert 44% of third downs is putting more pressure on you defense not to mention offense. Pees has not shown that he can consistently come up with a game plan to create pressure and put the Patriot offense on the field. Patriot opponents have 35 sacks to only 22 for New England. Pees has to come up with a game plan to slow down the Steelers offense.
The Steelers enter the game with the defensive hat trick, ranking No. 1 in the league in total defense, rush defense and pass defense. They lead the league in fewest passing yards per game (168.8) and per attempt (5.6) and have allowed only five quarterbacks to pass for more than 200 yards, none more than 240. Putting the game on the shoulders of an unproven quarterback and the offense may be a little to much for New England to handle. If the New England defense cannot get to the quarterback and the Steelers get the lead, it may be game over.
When scoring 20 or more points the Steelers are 6-1. When leading after three quarters the Steelers are 8-1. When outrushing their opponents the Steelers are 7-1. The Patriots defense having another off day against Pittsburgh may end the Patriots playoff hopes.
Draft talk anyone?