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AFC Championship Preview: Shooting For Lucky Number 7

Posted on January 21, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Tom Brady is looking to make his record seventh Super Bowl appearance.

Tom Brady is looking to make his record seventh Super Bowl appearance.

The AFC Championship Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots is a drive for number seven for both teams.

A victory over the Steelers would give New England coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady their record seventh Super Bowl appearance as a head coach and quarterback. If Mike Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers prevail, they will be one step closer to earning the Steelers a record seventh Super Bowl Championship.

Though New England’s 14-2 regular season record is far superior to the 11-5 mark of the Steelers, the Pittsburgh squad that will be on the field Sunday is not the same team that New England defeated 27-16 in week seven.

Since a four-game losing streak dropped their record to 4-5 after a 35-30 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on November 13th, the Steelers have been virtually unstoppable. They have won nine straight games, including playoff victories over the Dolphins and Chiefs.

Though Roethlisberger is often overlooked in the conversation about the best quarterbacks in football, he is still a dynamic passer (3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns in 14 games) who has won three AFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls. Having the best running back in football, Le’Veon Bell, and the one of the best wide receivers, Antonio Brown, certainly does not hurt the Pittsburgh offense.

While the offense has certainly been important for the Steelers recent success, the defense has also been a key. After allowing 27 or more points four times in the first nine games, the Steelers have allowed that many only once in the last nine games. They have allowed 28 total points in their two playoff wins.

The defense will have its greatest test in some time against Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Patriots have scored at least 34 points in each of their last three games and have reached the 30 point mark on nine occasions this season.

After missing the first four games of the season, Brady has been a man on a mission. He tossed 28 touchdown passes with just two interceptions in the regular season despite having no weapon as good as either Bell or Brown.

In nine career games against the Steelers, Brady is 7-2 with 24 touchdown passes and three interceptions. The Patriots have defeated Pittsburgh in the playoffs twice during the Belichick/Brady era, but the two teams have not met in the playoffs since 2004.

Often overlooked when compared to the New England offense, the Patriot defense has been at its finest over the second half of the season. Since allowing 31 points in a loss to the Seahawks in week 10, the Patriots have not allowed more than 23 points in a game and have allowed a total of 36 points in their last four games.

Obviously, the key on Sunday will be which defense is better able to stop an offensive explosion. Generally, you could say the advantage goes to the Steelers because of their plethora of offensive weapons. However, not only do the Patriots have Brady, but also home field advantage.

Regardless, whichever team wins will have a lucky seven to discuss as they head to Houston for Super Bowl LI.

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