When the NFL season kicked off, not many football fans expected the New York Jets to be the team on a roll and the Pittsburgh Steelers to be the team in danger of an early season hole when the two teams faced off.
After one week, the allegedly punchless Jets (1-0) lead the league in scoring, while the perennially powerful Steelers (0-1) are in danger of falling to 0-2 for the first time since 2002.
Pro Bowl linebacker LaMarr Woodley is already talking a big game, claiming the Steelers “won’t be 0-2” after the two teams meet up for the first time since the 2010 AFC Championship game.
Meanwhile, Jets safety LaRon Landry proclaimed that New York has a better defense than Pittsburgh this season.
“I’m not about to turn it into a controversy, but I think we can win over them,” Landry said. “I think we have all the pieces that they have, even better.”
“If you look at the starter[s] at each position … I like the matchup. I choose my guys over any of their guys, especially in our defensive scheme.”
Yes, it’ll be a battle of two of the best defenses the NFL has seen over the past few years, however there are some big name defenders that might not be able to suit up on Sunday.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison, a four-time All-Pro and the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is in danger of missing his second straight game after having a minor knee procedure in August.
Meanwhile, safety Troy Polamalu, a five-time All-Pro himself as well as the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, injured his calf last week and could also be inactive on Sunday.
The Steelers went to the Super Bowl in each of the seasons that Harrison and Polamalu won their Defensive Player of the Year awards, and although they’ve got depth, it’s very difficult to make up for their absence.
However, they’re not the only ones with a playmaking defender that may find himself on the inactive list this weekend.
Jets superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis is recovering from a mild concussion suffered last week, and the Jets will find out Friday or Saturday if the three-time All-Pro will be medically cleared to play.
If Revis’s status does meet the standards required by the NFL and his physicians, the 27-year-old Pittsburgh native will not even make the trip with the team.
Update: Revis has been officially ruled out, while Harrison and Polamalu are unlikely to play either.
When elite defenses face off, points would seem to be at a premium.
The last two times these teams faced off, Week 15 of the 2010 regular season, and then five weeks later in the AFC Championship game, each game was decided by five points.
Can Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense put up enough points to pull off the upset on the road? Will Tim Tebow be a factor on Sunday, after he shocked the Steelers and the rest of the football world in a playoff win last season?
Will the Steelers troubled offensive line be able to keep Ben Roethlisberger protected? Can young Jonathan Dwyer give a boost to a Steelers running game that’s sputtered in the absence of Rashard Mendenhall?
It may not be too early to say that this game could have big playoff implications in the AFC. Both teams have plenty to prove. Expect this game to be one of best, must-see games of Week 2.
The Jets and Steelers kick off at Heinz Field, Sunday at 4:25 pm EST on CBS.