The first week of the playoffs wraps up in Denver on Sunday with kickoff at 4:30 PM EST. The 2 most banged up teams in the playoffs will try and hobble, limp, and Tebow their way through this one. The latest on their myriad of injuries is below, and continue to check back or follow us on twitter @FantasyCPR for the late breaking injury news.
The Steelers will be looking to move on to the second round to face either their hated rivals the Ravens, or their other hated rivals, the Patriots. The winner of this game will head to New England if Houston wins, but they’ll be headed to Baltimore if the Bengals pull the upset. Here’s some key numbers to know, a surprise difference-maker, and my final conclusion about the final playoff game of wildcard weekend
Numbers to Know
0 - percent chance that Ben Rothlisberger would miss this game. His high-ankle sprain has bothered him, but he’s been able to practice more this week than before and he’ll be out there giving his all against the Broncos. He may be without Maurkice Pouncey, his starting center, who is questionable. The defensive injuries to James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Bret Keisel, and LaMarr Woodley don’t appear to be able to keep them out of this one either. The only Steelers we know for sure won’t play are Ryan Clark who has a condition that makes playing at altitude extremely dangerous and Rashard Mendenhall who is on IR after blowing out his knee.
3 - Losses in a row by the Broncos which could’ve/should’ve cost them the playoffs but they backed in when the Chargers beat the Raiders. The combined score of the 3 games was 89-40 and 2 of those 3 were at home. Tim Tebow has regressed over the course of those games as well finishing with just 1 TD passing (and 3 rushing) and 7 turnovers.
11.5- sacks by rookie Von Miller to go with the 9.5 from Elvis Dumervil. Big Ben’s mobility has been limited at best since he sprained his ankle so if and how Big Ben survives these two beastly Bronocs rushers will be a key to deciding the game
17-consecutive games in the postseason that the Steelers have not allowed a 100 yard rusher. The Broncos finished the year far-and-away the leaders in rushing yards per game, but will have to face a Steelers D that ranked 8th in yards-per-game allowed and 2nd in rushing TD’s per game allowed (only to SF, who was absolutely amazing.) I don’t see Tebow and co. gashing this D Sunday so they’ll have to take to the air, where things get dangerous for Timmy T…
22- rank of the Brocos rush defense. In order to keep Ben upright and throwing the ball down the field, the Steelers will look to run the ball. The question is exactly who gets the carries… Rashard Mendenhall is done for the year, and Mewelde Moore is questionable with a knee injury. The bulk of the load will probably fall to Isaac Redman who has shown potential in limited action during this he second year out of Bowie State (yes, that’s different than Boise State, just a little). Redman’s average is 4.5 yards per carry which is actually better than Mendenhall’s even, but he doesn’t have the experience in the regular season, never mind the postseason.
46.5- Tebow’s completion percentage on the year. Of all QB’s to start 10 games or more, it’s the worst since 2000. Sunday won’t be easy either even without Ryan Clark, the Steelers safety on the field.. Pittsburgh’s pass defense was number one in the league and allowed just 171.9 passing yards a game.
Antonio Brown has emerged this year as a great 2nd WR and maybe even more of a threat the “60 Minutes” Mike Wallace on the other side. Brown will be facing a depleted Denver secondary with Brian Dawkins declared out. The Broncos starting safeties instead will be special teamer David Bruton and rookie Quinton Carter. Brown has played well coming down the stretch and should be involved in Big Ben’s vertical passing game as well as on all punt and kick returns. He’s Ben’s favorite target on 3rd downs and in pressure situations, and he makes the plays over the middle to move the chains…It would surprise me if there’s not a point in the game he’s running to the end zone with a bunch of Broncos trying to chase him down.
I can’t see the Steelers losing this one. Tebow-ites would say “All he does is wins” and “he plays his best in big games,” but the problem I have with that is this: last week was win-and-your-in, and he played horribly and didn’t win. I do think he’ll play a little better than that, but I still think Pittsburgh wins this one easily 33-10. I would gladly lay the 8.5 because I think it’s past midnight for these Cinderella Broncos, and the Steelers will send them into the off-season to figure out if they’re all-in with Tebow or not…
Editor’s Note: This preview is part of our ongoing playoff preview series. For a preview of the earlier games featuring the Bengals and Texans, Lions and Saints, or Falcons and Giants follow those links. You can also join us for our playoff edition of fantasy football.