The Pittsburgh Steelers believe they will be able to get past the New England Patriots in 2017. But what are the odds of an AFC Championship Game rematch?
Only once in the previous three decades have the same two teams met for the AFC title in consecutive years. That was five seasons ago when the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the New England Patriots. The Ravens went on to win Super Bowl 47 over the San Francisco 49ers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to follow in Baltimore’s footsteps as another AFC North team looking to make that jump. Last week, Mark Bullock of the Washington Post reported that the Steelers might have the best offense in the NFL with wide receiver Martavis Bryant reinstated. That may or may not be the case. However, defense is the bigger issue for New England’s top threats in the AFC this year.
According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Pittsburgh is currently listed as a 6/1 second choice to win the conference behind the defending Super Bowl champions at 3/2. But the Oakland Raiders are 6/1 too, as they also attempt to prevent New England from making its third Super Bowl appearance in four years.
The Patriots will be trying to make their seventh straight AFC Championship Game this season as well. The reality is, only those couple teams can likely stop that from happening.
When the Ravens upset the Pats after losing in the AFC title game the previous year, it was their defense that made the difference. Defense was also the deciding factor when the New York Jets kept a top-seeded New England squad from getting to the AFC Championship Game following the 2010 season, which is the last time it happened.
The Raiders seem to be more of a threat right now behind quarterback Derek Carr and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack. The return of Carr from a broken leg will be critical to Oakland’s chances. The team also has a sense of urgency to win over the next two seasons before bolting to Las Vegas. That is one reason running back Marshawn Lynch was brought on board, to help his hometown team get over the top.