When people talk about an X-Factor in a football game, they’re typically talking about a key player, whether it be a quarterback or linebacker—someone who could completely change the course of the game with their play.
As I looked at the upcoming AFC Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, I took the X-Factor tag a step further. Not thinking about just one player, but one area of the game which will ultimately decide the outcome— and, in this instance, a chance to play in Super Bowl 51.
Before getting to this week’s game, it should be noted I did a similar podcast/article prior to the Divisional round game against the Kansas City Chiefs. I talked about how the red-zone will ultimately decide the outcome of the game, and if Pittsburgh’s defense hadn’t gone into lock-down mode, they likely would have lost the game due to their offensive red-zone struggles.
In the upcoming matchup against the Patriots, the X-Factor is simple — someone other than Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown needs to step up in a big way. Sounds very general, but it doesn’t have to be only one specific player.
Eli Rogers is certainly a candidate to contribute in a big way. Jesse James could continue his stellar postseason by being the player who exploits the middle of the field against Bill Belichick’s crew. Throw in the fact that the team could get Ladarius Green back for this game and you have yourself a group of players who will need to step up in a big way for the Steelers to earn one more game in this 2016 season.
Belichick is a smart coach. You might not like him (not many do), but the fact is he knows how to take away the opposition’s talent. Expect Belichick to take away Bell, forcing Ben Roethlisberger to beat him through the air. However, the Patriots will double team Brown, leaving a secondary offensive threat to win their one-on-one matchup and make plays when they’re presented. When you look at it this way, you can see just how important this factor is for the upcoming game.
It should be a great game, and the chess match between these two coaching staffs will be something to watch. You can hear more in-depth analysis on the game by listening to the latest podcast in the player above!