Posted on December 12, 2017, by Travis Pulver

Movie Sequels are rarely better than the original; especially when the primary actors are the same and the story just takes place in a different location. They are often entertaining in their own right (if they are any good), but pale in comparison to the first. Such has been the case whenever the New England Patriots face their former AFC Championship game opponents—like they do this week when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.

New England has been to the AFC Championship every season since 2011. The following year they got a chance to face that opponent again during the regular season. Sometimes they won; sometimes they didn’t.

Via vimeo.com

The games were often reminiscent of the Crocodile Dundee-movie franchise in the 1980’s. The first movie was great. But while the second wasn’t bad, it didn’t measure up to the first. It was enjoyable, but it wasn’t nearly as entertaining.

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This week, they face off against last year’s AFC Championship opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers. But if the movie sequel analogy is going to fit once again, maybe it will be more like the Godfather II. Maybe it will be that rare sequel that is better than the first.

If each team’s major players can get through the game healthy, there is no reason why it can’t be.

So—who’s going to win?

The Debate

After the aerial explosion the Steelers had against the Ravens, all eyes are going to be on Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and the rest of the Steelers receivers. Should the Patriots defense shut down the run game like they did in the AFC Championship last year, the Steelers will have to air it out.

But they tried that last year, and it didn’t work; so, why would it work this year?

Steelers fans wouldn’t mind seeing that happen, but they’d rather see Le’Veon Bell forcing the Patriots defense to stop him. As the Patriots defense tries to, the coverage softens, and Ben Roethlisberger starts throwing bombs to Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

If the Patriots defense that showed up against Miami is the one that shows up against the Steelers, that could happen. Roethlisberger is better than Jay Cutler, and he managed to look like an All-Pro Monday night. While Cutler had some good tools to work with, Big Ben has some better ones.

New England is going to have to keep the Steelers offense off the field as much as possible; either that or they can score on almost every drive. With Tom Brady at quarterback, anything is possible, and he’ll have his best weapon back, Rob Gronkowski.

Maybe if Gronkowski can demand enough attention from the Steelers secondary, Brady will have better luck hooking up with his wide receivers. Against the Dolphins, he targeted his wide receivers 21 times and connected just eight times.

Via playitusa.com

Brady deserves part of the blame along with his receivers. But his offensive line does as well. They only allowed two sacks and six hits, but Brady was under heavy pressure all night.

The Prediction

The Patriots offensive line is not bad, but they are going to struggle to stop the Steelers pass rush. Brady will keep plays alive because he can, but even he needs time to throw.

New England controlled the AFC Championship Game from beginning to end, but that will not happen this time. This will be a much closer, much more exciting game. But don’t be surprised if the Steelers start to pull away in the second half.

New England is favored by three but don’t be surprised when the Steelers win by seven.

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