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Old 12-05-2007, 08:36 AM   #10
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Default RealGM: Why the Steelers Will Beat the Patriots

It's long -- sorry -- but a good analysis. Here's Part 1, Part 2 to follow below:

Why The Steelers Will Beat The Patriots
Matthew Gordon. 4th December, 2007 - 5:55 pm

This Sunday?s game features what might be the two best teams in the AFC, or even in the entire NFL. The 12-0 Patriots have shown so far that they are among the most formidable teams in recent memory, accumulating what feels like a guaranteed victory every week. The Steelers, at 9-3, have lost three winnable games this season that they really should have won yet they remain number three in the conference and a feared opponent to anyone they face.

To be fair, there are a lot of things in the Patriots? favor. The Steelers are only 2-3 on the road, an abysmal record compared to their overall performance; the Patriots don?t have any crippling injuries, their worst being to Roosevelt Colvin; and they?re obviously riding one of the biggest momentums the league has ever seen. Despite these factors, there are a few things that could produce a shift in fortunes.

A quick survey of the Patriots? twelve wins so far reveals the following: four have been against divisional opponents (who are a combined 9-27 this year, for a putrid winning percentage of .250) and another four have been against non-division opponents with losing records. That leaves only four games during which the Patriots can be said to have really put together a performance that would make a contending team interested, including a narrow escape against the Colts. The Colts, Eagles and Ravens games were won by a combined ten points and could have easily been losses. An important note to make here is that all three of those teams have good coaching and came into those games with a game plan that they executed very well.

The Steelers? haven?t been at all more impressive, but the games they?ve played take a different path. When the Steelers have lost, it seems completely random, a result of the team just not bothering to put together a good enough performance. Games like the Niners blowout and the two games against Cincinnati demonstrate that the Steelers are clearly capable of putting away non-playoff teams almost as well as if not just as well as the Patriots can. The Dolphins game, a tough-fought 3-0 win, was a product of lousy weather and an underrate Dolphins defence. What?s more important is that the Steelers have not lost to a +.500 team this season. (They?re only 3-0, but this can be attributed to their schedule ? besides, the Patriots are only 4-0, as mentioned. Neither team has been pitching playoff battles every week.)

Since neither team has had the chance to bowl over legions of playoff teams, the previous twelve games have shown us little in terms of quality of opponents except that the Patriots win games and the Steelers win games when they come out to play. The teams? records, the Patriots winning 12-9 in the wins department so far, can only explain so much, with both records being very good and the Steelers? losses not coming in any sort of systematic fashion. The Patriots won against the Colts but needed a 14-point fourth-quarter surge to do it, something that probably won?t be so available against the Steelers? defence; the Eagles win can be blame more on A.J. Feeley?s horrendous decision-making in the closing minutes than anything else. The Cardinals, Broncos and Jets are all significantly different teams that exposed little more than the Steelers? tendency to play to the level of their competition. There are three things about this Steelers team that could make them very difficult for the Patriots to stop.

(continued in next post)
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