N.Y. Jets (13-5) at Pittsburgh (13-4)
Mark Sanchez joins the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger (2004-05) as the only quarterbacks to start and win four postseason games in their first two seasons. With another win, Sanchez would have five road postseason victories, the most in NFL history. Roethlisberger has led the Steelers to four AFC title games in seven seasons as starting quarterback.
The Steelers’ six Super Bowl titles are the most of any franchise. Pittsburgh has won eight of its past nine postseason games.
SMARTER STATS: Quite often the value of defensive players becomes more evident when they’re off the field than when they’re on. That may be the case more with Steelers safety Troy Polamalu than any other defensive player in the game right now. Over the past two seasons, the Steelers are 15-4 when Polamalu plays, and 6-7 when he does not.
Polamalu was injured and out when the Jets beat the Steelers, 22-17, inWeek 15. Sanchez had thrown at least one interception in each of his eight games before that one, but he went pick-free with Polamalu out of the picture. In that same game, Roethlisberger completed just 23 of 44 passes, an important number for the Jets. Their defense allowed the lowest regular season completion percentage (50.7), and they’ll have to keep that up.
Neither defense allows much on the ground — the Steelers ranked first in the league in Defensive Adjusted Line Yards (a Football Outsiders metric that assigns responsibility for rushing plays based on the length of the play) with 3.47 Line Yards per play, and the Jets ranked fifth with 3.61. Pittsburgh caused fewer negative plays (20 percent to New York’s 21 percent), and the Jets lagged a bit behind Pittsburgh in shortyardage conversions allowed. But it’s hard to put the proverbial thin piece of paper between these two defenses. This could turn the AFC championship game into a passing contest, which gives the Steelers a decided advantage.