Don't miss 5 reasons why the Pats will lose
Five Reasons The Patriots Will Defeat The Pittsburgh Steelers.
Doom and gloom are right around the corner. Odds makers are giving them credit for back-to-back offensive explosions, but those are the same finicky odds makers who had New England as three-point underdogs against lesser teams not that long ago. Pessimists are telling people that the end is coming. The best defense in the NFL is in town and they ready to prove that the Patriots are just lucky to be in playoff contention without their top playmakers like Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Laurence Maroney and Adalius Thomas.
Here are five reasons Pittsburgh will go home without the victory they expect:
Pittsburgh Can't Stop The Spread Formation
Top defenses are good to have as a key part of your team. Every head coach wants one. But when the defense is based on creative blitz packages, stout run defense due benefiting from having an extra defender in the box, and a pass defense protected by a solid pass rush, the holes in said defense are well hidden. The Patriots offensive system under Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady exposed that style of defense in 2007, using the spread formation with Brady in the shotgun to counter the Steelers biggest asset (blitz pressure).
The 2008 Patriots continue that trend under Matt Cassel. Despite going againt two teams who had New England's number early in the year, the Patriots were able to spread out the defense to neutralize both Miami (Joey Porter) and the Jets' (Kris Jenkins) top playmakers on defense.
With the Steelers linebackers James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley ready to shoot the gap to lay waste to Cassel in the backfield it will be up to the Steelers secondary to prevent the quick slant Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney and Randy Moss are ready to use to offset the pressure. With both Welker and Moss turning in 100-yard games against Miami's version of the zone blitz, Sunday should be a repeat performance.
Top Ranked Defense Doesn't Mean A Win
|Randy Moss can't help but laugh at Anthony Smith No. 27 after the "guarantee"|
Sure the Steelers are the top ranked defense in the NFL allowing just 14.5 points (1st), 235 total yards (1st), 168.8 passing (1st) and 15 touchdowns (1st) per game.
But in week 13 last year, Pittsburgh had the same ranked defense in 2007 allowing just 12.9 points (1st), 230.8 total yards (1st), 154.0 passing (1st) and 17 touchdowns (1st).
Brady and the Patriots used a combination of play action, spread offense and big plays to rack up 34 points, 421 total yards, 399 passing and 4 touchdowns.
The problem for the Steeler was when they stopped scoring to keep pace with New England. The game got quickly out of hand, forcing Ben Roethlisberger to try to come from behind passing, something the Steelers of 2007 (and coincidently 2008) aren't built for.
Never Open Your Mouth Before The Game
Anthony Smith must not have learned his lesson in 2007 when he all but guaranteed a Steelers victory in 2007. Despite going up against the top offense in the league in 2007, Smith admitted he wasn't concerned about New England's ability to pass the ball. Smith made a similar statement this week to reporters from Pittsburgh. Though head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger feigned ignorance of Smith's comments, the Steelers safety is on record
"If they ask me again, I'll say the same thing," Smith told the Indiana Gazette. "We're the No. 1 defense. If we play like we've been playing, and our offense comes around and has a good game, and we're clicking on all cylinders, we're going to win the game."
Maybe Smith doesn't recall, that Pittsburgh was the No. 1 defense in 2007. He must have also forgotten being burned for 2 touchdowns himself in that game, one on a flea-flicker from Brady to Moss, back to Brady then over Smith's head for the score.
Joey Porter learned the lesson last week, but in classic loudmouth style, refused to comment after the game on his prediction.
|Tom Brady coudl pick apart defenses without running|
(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Matt Cassel Isn't Tom Brady
The obvious part of this comparison is that Cassel doeson't have Brady's lightning-quick reflexes to get the ball out of his hands to receivers downfield. Cassel still holds the ball too long, he doesn't find his third or even fourth options on a regular basis, and he's never seen any defense like Pittsburgh's yet.
What Cassel has that Brady never had, is a set of feet that allow him to escape pressure by scrambling for yardage. The attribute will be huge against the Steelers who need to rely on man coverage when they send extra bodies to blitz. If Cassel find holes in the pass rush, with receivers running the defenders off downfield, he'll be able to gain big yards underneath. Cassel merely needs to threaten the run, and Pittsburgh will be forced to adjust by putting a spy in the secondary to stop the scramble, or at least be aware of that part of New England's attack.
Cassel has scrambled for 199 yards on 53 attempts (3.8 avg.) averaging the same as running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis who has gained 272 yards on 72 attempts (3.8 avg.)
History Is On New England's Side
The Steelers are a dominating team at home, but they can be beaten. Typically they're more susceptible on the road. This time, the Patriots are at home where they've never lost to the Steelers (2-0) in Gillette Stadium. The Patriots have won 3 out of the last 4 regular season meetings between these teams dating back to 2002. The Patriots also hold a 2-0 postseason record against Pittsburgh during that time.
The Steelers have the second best post-Thanksgiving record in NFL History with 36 wins and just 16 losses (.692). The No. 1 team? New England with 48 wins and just 9 losses, a .842 winning percentage.
So despite having the top ranked defense, a solid quarterback and years of winning tradition, including a better record in 2008, the Steelers are vulnerable. Statistics and statements won't matter once the opening kick is away, but expect one of these two AFC Heavyweights to make their own statement come Sunday afternoon. The five reasons above should give you confidence it will be the home team this week.