NFL Free Picks: New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 1/23/11

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In 2005, the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets played an epic overtime battle in the playoffs that was separated by just a matter of inches here at Heinz Field. In that NFL betting affair, the Steelers came away with a slight three point win. Will the same be able to be said now that the stakes are even higher in the AFC Championship Game? Find out right here with our AFC Championship Game picks at Cappers Info!

Matchup: New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Date: Sunday, January 23th, 6:30 ET
Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Game Line: Pittsburgh -3.5
Over/Under 38

Jets Notes: If you're a fan of the Jets right now, you have to be pleased with the fact that your team is still kicking in the second season after going through the gauntlet of both QB Peyton Manning and QB Tom Brady. It is really notable that New York has held these two future Hall of Fame signal callers to just 37 points between them in two games, and seven of those points really came in garbage time at the end of the duel on Sunday against the New England Patriots. A team that was perceived to be all talk and no walk has really been proven otherwise, as for the second straight year, Head Coach Rex Ryan and company have had the game to back up their mouths. QB Mark Sanchez and his offense did a great job of taking care of the pigskin on Sunday against the Pats, not turning the ball over a single time on the afternoon. That's the type of play that got this team to the playoffs, and this is exactly what the formula was for reaching the AFC Championship Game last year. Also, in games in which New York has scored a TD this year, it only has been beaten one time, that wild loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. There aren't really anymore eye popping stats that stand out for the Jets offensively, but the defense is doing its job as well. Brady was sacked five times on Sunday, and he was constantly under pressure, especially on blitzes right up the middle. Against a Pittsburgh team that often struggles to protect its quarterback, this could be a tremendous key to the game. LB David Harris became the first man to pick off a pass from Brady since October, and you can bet that he and his defensive mates are ready to rock and roll against Big Ben and company on Sunday in Steeltown.

Steelers Notes: There are some positive signs for the Steelers to rest on coming into the AFC Championship Game, but there are a heck of a lot of negative ones as well. We've already mentioned the biggest downer, and that's that QB Ben Roethlisberger is virtually always under the gun. He was sacked six times and pressured seemingly a zillion others against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday afternoon, and you know that the Jets are watching tape of that game and salivating right now. The ground game never really got its act together with RB Rashard Mendenhall either against the Ravens. This rushing defense is statistically stronger than that of the Ravens, though, as the Jets ranked No. 2 in the AFC and No. 3 overall in holding running backs down. In fact, the first time that they allowed a 100+ yard rusher in the Rex Ryan era was against this Pittsburgh team in Week 15. That's the brightest news that the Steelers have to look forward to in this one. Mendenhall had 19 carries for exactly 100 yards, and he gashed a ton of holes in this New York 'D' on that day, and this might set up to be another rock solid day for him as well. As always, the biggest thing that the Steelers have going for them is the fact that their defense is just downright nasty. They forced a few crucial turnovers against QB Joe Flacco and company over the weekend, and though allowing 24 points doesn't look like they had a phenomenal game, only 14 of it was the fault of the defense, as seven came directly from the offense, while another three came when Baltimore started a drive in field goal range thanks to special teams. We continue to preach how strong this team was this year against opposing ground attacks as well. Pittsburgh only allowed a miniscule 61.1 yards per game on the ground this year.

The Final Word: Hasn't this been a crazy year of NFL betting action? There is no doubt in our minds that these are not the four best teams left standing in the league this year, but these are the ones that are merely peaking at the right time. If that holds true, the Jets should be the winners in this one, as they are clearly in the best form right now in the AFC. Even if they don't walk out of the Steel City with a 'W', you'd like to think that these two are going to play a close enough game to bring that point spread into some consideration. We'll talk the Jets outright, but it wouldn't surprise us if this one came down to a last second kick or some OT, and if that's the case, we want all of the points that we can get.

Free Pro Football Picks: New York +3.5
Prediction: New York 16 – Pittsburgh 13

Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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