By: Russ Goldman
Today the Steelers play the Broncos in the playoffs, and the winner will play the Patriots next Saturday Night at Gillette Stadium. This might surprise many, but I am hoping the Steelers win this game, and will be heading to Foxboro next weekend. Before you think I am crazy, I have a few reasons why I feel very strongly about this possible scenario.
First, to be the best I feel you need to beat the best. I think there is very little to gain by beating the Broncos. They are an opponent that the Patriots should beat. The Steelers will be a huge challenge, and I think that is exactly what the Patriots need right now.
A common thread between the 3 Super Bowl Championship teams were tough challenges in their “three games to glory”. In 2001, the Patriots had to face the Raiders, Steelers, and then the Rams. In 2003, they faced the Titans, Colts, and Panthers. Finally, in 2004, they went against the Colts, Steelers, and Eagles.
All of these teams really forced the Patriots to raise their game. It is about building momentum from one playoff game to the next. The team takes it one game at a time, but let’s be honest here that the goal is to win a Super Bowl. I feel you are better positioned to meet that challenge by facing the best competition.
Second, another common thread with the Super Bowl Champions was the “us against the world” mentality that these teams used to motivate and catupult themselves to the titles. If the Steelers win today, many in the media I feel will be picking against the Patriots in the Divisional Round. That extra motivation could give the Patriots the fuel they need to win the ultimate goal.
Fans forget that in many of these playoff victories, many media members picked against the Patriots. In the 2003 Championship season, I know there was much talk leading up to the game against the Titans. It continued the next week against the Colts, as many expected that game to be a coronation for Peyton Manning. How did that work out?
A third reason is the offense needs to show they can succeed against a top defense. The Steelers and Ravens both give you that challenge. With everyone focused on the defense, it is the offense that can actually win the Patriots a Championship. They struggled against the Steelers, Giants and Cowboys. Being able to succeed against a tough Steelers defense would again help build confidence and momentum in the playoffs.
If the Steelers do come to Foxboro next weekend and beat the Patriots, I certainly can live with it. It will be evident that the Patriots were just not good enough.
If the Broncos come to Foxboro next weekend, I would expect the Patriots to win, but what can you really build on by beating an inferior opponent? The Patriots have much to prove, and beating Tim Tebow which they have already done, would not really give you a tremendous amount of benefit.
So as you are watching the Steelers and the Broncos just give some thought on who you want to see the Patriots play in the Divisional Round. I certainly want the Steelers to come to Foxboro as the benefits that can be gained are worth the risk of losing.