For the 6th time in as many years, the New England Patriots will be in the AFC Championship Game.
This year they will face the troubled but always dangerous Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that is also no stranger to success in the playoffs.
The Patriots took care of business last Saturday night against the Houston Texas, but with a solid victory their were also many issues facing the team. The Patriots played downright sloppy in many instances, especially on offense. With that being said, the team still managed to put up 30 points, and the Houston Texans defense is a squad worth applauding to as they’ve shown before they are no easy match.
Dion Lewis has 3 touchdowns: one rushing, one receiving, and one kickoff return. The shifty running back was responsible for 18 of our 30 points (excluding field goals), and running back James White has a touchdown as well. Although Blount didn’t make it into the end-zone, the running back corps managed to carry us in for some scores.
The defense had a good game, managing 3 interceptions. It’s not too hard when the Houston offense is so predictable, as Brock Osweiler is really only capable of handing the ball off to Lamar Miller and throwing to a tight-end. If Houston can figure out their quarterback situation, which really to me only means upgrading slightly over Brock Osweiler in the off-season, they will be in the playoffs yet again. They really are a great team once they have a quarterback who can, you know, make passes. Even just some of the time…
Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be a much greater threat in the passing game, and from here on out there is no easy game in the Super Bowl race. Big Ben, potential MVP Matt Ryan, and the somewhat god-like Aaron Rodgers will all be tough to face, but the Patriots defense has improved drastically since their midseason woes after trading Jaime Collins. Although the opposing quarterback may get tougher, the opposing defense will only get easier. The Houston defense is by far the greatest in comparison to the remaining opponents. Although Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta are all good and decent, Houston has playmakers in every grouping on the field, where these teams make it easier to find mismatches and weaknesses in the defense.
Here’s a few simple keys to the game this weekend:
1. Limit the running game. This one has to be most important. LeVeon Bell is an absolute machine and may be the most well-rounded running back in the NFL. Against a solid Kansas City defense he managed 170 yards on 30 carries. He will be getting the rock, and he will be dangerous.
2. Making plays in the running game. Blount and the boys need to run the rock. The Steelers secondary has improved drastically this season, and although they’re no Legion of Boom they are certainly a strength for the Burgh. Not that I think Brady can’t handle it, but I think it would be much easier for New England if Pittsburgh needs to start watching out for the run first and foremost, opening up the passing game a bit easier later in the game. Plus, Blount has reason to be fired up (if he isn’t already for playing in the AFC Championship). This is the team he walked out on for not getting enough playing time, might as well use that as motivation.
3. Special Teams. Just don’t make mistakes! It doesn’t matter if we can’t force them to make errors on special teams.. just don’t mess up! This has been a strange season for our special teams. Although there was a return for a touchdown last week, there was also a fumble for Houston. That can’t happen against an offense that WILL find ways to put up points.
4. Make Boswell put up points! On Sunday night, all 18 points came from kicker Chris Boswell. Kansas City allowed 0 TDs. The Patriots offense is much better than KC’s, I don’t care how many points Boswell puts up: if he’s the only one scoring we have a great chance of walking away with a win.
The Divisional playoff round is a bad time to start making mistakes. Let’s hope that was a testament to facing a great defense and not a sign of struggles to come. Go Pats!