AFC Championship Game
#1 New England Patriots -6 (15-2)
This one stings on many fronts. For one, we had the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. They were our pick back in August when we did our official ESNY NFL preview and stuck with them for our NFL Playoffs preview.
#4 Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5)
AFC Championship Game, Jan. 22, 6:40 p.m. ET, CBS
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Secondly and far more importantly, we hate the New England Patriots. We respect them, yes, but we can’t stand these guys. It’s every single season with the success and they don’t go away.
To think the Pittsburgh Steelers will walk into Foxborough and beat the Pats would be to not provide New England with the respect it deserves.
— NFL (@NFL) January 21, 2017
SEE ALSO: ESNY's NFL Playoffs Preview, Predictions
Can the Steelers win? Of course, they can. Ben Roethlisberger, for his few faults, is one of the greatest clutch QBs of all-time. Antonio Brown is a stud and Le’Veon Bell is the best back in the world.
Pittsburgh can most definitely win. The problem is: it doesn’t seem likely.
Anytime Tom Brady sees the Steelers defense, he lights it up. In the past, Dick LeBeau has been very stubborn when facing the great No. 12. With his famed zone-blitz (even his new-aged defense after the pass-happy NFL broke out), LeBeau would rarely throw enough defensive backs on the field to better equip his defense with better matchups.
The only chance Pitt has on defense is if pass rushers light it up. They’ll have to win one-on-one battles to a degree that it scares Brady when he’s forced with a conventional four-man rush. That’ll be solely up to James Harrison and rookie Bud Dupree.
The Steelers suspect secondary won’t be able to contain the fifth-ranked offense in the NFL.
On the other side of the ball, Big Ben and company will get their points, but they’ll have to control the clock. As good as Bell and the offensive line has been, their quick-strike offense is famous for short drives.
We’ll take a competitive game, but this one has Brady’s imprints all over it. We’ll also take the Pats to cover.