Preview of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins Wildcard Game

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins face up on a wildcard game.  This is a preview of how that game might go.

Before the 2016-2017 regular season began, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the trendier picks to represent the AFC in Super Bowl 51. With an offense featuring three players among the best at their position, in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown, many people felt that in spite of their youth, they had enough firepower to beat any team in the conference.

Over the second half of the season, the Steelers appeared to prove many of those prognosticators correct. After a tough loss to the Dallas Cowboys in mid-November, Pittsburgh won their last seven games of the regular season, en route to an 11-5 record and the AFC North division title.

Miami Dolphins

As the postseason begins, the Steelers appear to have a favorable match-up in the first round, taking on the upstart but injury-ravaged Miami Dolphins team. While the Dolphins also had a strong finish of the regular season, going 9-2 over their last 11 games (after starting the season with a 1-4 record), they managed to do so with some of their most important players ailing on the sideline.

For starters, quarterback Ryan Tannehill missed the last three regular season games after injuring his knee in Miami’s Week 14 win against Arizona. While there was some thought around Tannehill potentially being back in time to start in the playoffs, he hasn’t taken any meaningful repetitions under center since the injury. There’s little chance the Dolphins would start him this week without him having practice for so long, meaning backup quarterback Matt Moore will likely be Miami’s starter this weekend.

Moore will likely be asked to simply manage the offense, and rely on the bevy of young and talented skill position players that the Dolphins have quietly assembled. Running back Jay Ajayi ran for over 200 yards the last time the Dolphins played the Steelers (Week 6 of the 2016 season). Wide receiver Jarvis Landry is one of the most productive pass catchers in the league, having recorded his second straight year 90+ receptions and more than 1100+ yards receiving; as a slot option, he is incredibly difficult to defend.

Over the last six weeks of the regular season, second year receiver DeVante Parker tallied 445 yards receiving and three touchdowns. The former first-round pick presents a size (6’3 and 212lbs) and speed element that’s very difficult to defend. Fellow wide receiver Kenny Stills leads all Dolphins receivers with nine touchdown passes, and could be the beneficiary of a few deep shots from Moore (who does throw a nice deep ball).

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers defense allowed opposing running backs to run for 15 touchdowns and 4.3 yards per game, both of which were in the bottom half of the league this season. So, if they devote much of its game plan towards ensuring Ajayi doesn’t have another monster day, that will likely open up opportunities downfield for Moore and those receivers.

Miami’s 29th-ranked defense will also be facing a bit of a “pick your poison” scenario. The Dolphins could similarly devise a scheme to stop Bell, who was one of the most productive running backs in the NFL this year. Even after missing the first four games of this season, Bell finished fifth in the NFL with 1,268 rushing yards this year, accumulating 100+ rushing yards in five of the Steelers last six games. But if Miami’s defense sells out to stop the run pulling out every wrinkle they can to help shore up their 30th-ranked rushing defense to stop Bell, that could be at the sacrifice of Roethlisberger putting up an air show. Byron Maxwell, Miami’s top cornerback, hasn’t played since injuring his ankle on December 17th, and asking rookie cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Tony Lippett to stop Antonio Brown doesn’t sound like an optimal game plan.

The Dolphins could potentially make this game interesting, but it’s very hard to see them having the ability to stop the Steelers offense, and put up more points on their own. Those tasks are even more difficult, given the fact that this game will be played in Pittsburgh. The Steelers lost only two games at home this year, and those were to perhaps the two best teams in the NFL (New England and Dallas). They haven’t lost at home game since before Thanksgiving. They score more than 28 points per game at home, and outscore their opponents by 10 points per game in home match-ups.

Preview for Sunday’s game: Look for the Steelers to pick up the win, and advance to Kansas City.

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GAME PREVIEW – WASHINGTON VS COLORADO

Huskie – Buffalo Match Up

A pair of Top Ten college football teams will meet in the PAC-12 Championship Game on Friday night, December 2nd. The Washington Huskies will face off against the Colorado Buffaloes with a lot on the line.

Both teams still have a chance to reach the College Football Playoffs where the top four teams will play for a chance to be the National Champions. Washington really just needs to win and they are most likely in since they hold the 4th spot in the rankings. The Buffaloes will need a lot of help from the committee even with a win.

The game is being played on a neutral field at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Levi’s is the home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. The game will be highly viewed since it will be played in prime-time on the Fox network.

Washington was able to clinch the Pac-12 North Division with a convincing 45-17 win over rival Washington State last weekend. Huskies Quarterback Jake Browning led a first-quarter surge that saw the team score 28 points in the first on three Browning touchdown throws. He ended up passing for 292 total yards in the game as the Huskies won the Apple Cup for the fourth straight year.

The Colorado Buffaloes had a tougher time in beating Utah 27-22 to claim the PAC-12 South Division title. The defense forced two key fumbles by Utah which helped the Buffaloes get the win. They survived a late score and onside kick to come out with the win.

So it comes down to the 11-1 Huskies against the 10-2 Buffaloes for the PAC-12 Championship and a possible chance to play for the College Football Championship. Here is a preview of both teams and a game prediction.

Washington Huskies

Third-year Head Coach Chris Petersen has done a tremendous job with this team. Both the offense and defense are strong and rank in the top ten in college football. Led by QB Browning (who has thrown 40 touchdown passes on the season), running back Myles Gaskin and receivers John Ross and Dante Pettis, the four players have accounted for a total of 80 touchdowns in their 12 games. The offense ranks 3rd in the country, averaging 44.8 points per game.

Defensively, the Washington Huskies are also a top ten ranked unit allowing only 17.8 points a game to their opponents.

Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado can put points on the board also averaging 34.8 points per game. Senior Quarterback Sefo Liufau is a threat either running or passing the ball and if the Huskies don’t contain him you can expect a tight game. Other offensive threats come from running back Phillip Lindsay and receivers Shay Fields and Devin Ross.

The Buffaloes have a senior-laden group on defense who are currently ranked 13th in points allowed with a per game average of 18.8 a game. They will need to rely on a big game from that group and pressure on Browning to hold the Huskies down.

Prediction

This will be a great game and one definitely worth watching if you are a fan of college football. I do not expect a defensive battle and that should favor Washington. Other than the loss to USC, Washington has been able to score in bunches and that could be the difference in this one.

Washington by 7 points.

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