When one team is really good, it is difficult for all parties not to view the league through the prism of needing to dethrone that one particular team in order for others to succeed. That is the lens through which many fans and commentators have been viewing the 2017 season in the NFL, and even the league’s own network is no exception.
In fact, they just yesterday published an article written by Conor Orr that attempts to run down the six teams who are most likely to be able to knock off the New England Patriots, who have been to the AFC Championship Game in each of the past six seasons, and have won two of the past three Super Bowls.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were the last team standing in their way leading up to the Super Bowl during the 2016 season, but the black and gold struggled to get out of their own way during the Conference Finals, losing to New England after winning nine consecutive games.
Still, in Orr’s estimation, no team has better odds of beating the Patriots this year than Pittsburgh, which has not beaten the team from New England since the 2011 season in a handful of matchups, including two last season, one in the regular season and one in the playoffs.
Of the Steelers, Orr writes, “Ben Roethlisberger‘s 3-5 record against Bill Belichick is saying something at this point. There aren’t many teams left with a legendary quarterback who can go 12 rounds with the Patriots on any given night”.
It’s somewhat difficult to tell, but it seems as though he is casting Roethlisberger’s record against Belichick in a positive light. It is worth noting of course that Roethlisberger was injured during the Steelers’ match against the Patriots during the regular season.
“Plus”, Orr went on, “Roethlisberger’s supporting cast should be more capable and focused than it’s been in a few years. Rookie linebacker T.J. Watt and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster are immediate upgrades who can help balance out the thinning lineup of a team that began taking too many personnel risks”.
I’m really not sure exactly what I think of Orr’s analysis, but I do agree with the general premise that the Steelers have as good a chance as any team to beat the Patriots, and, believe it or not, they do have a secondary that has the very realistic potential to be sufficient. Especially if they adjust their schemes.
Of the other teams on the list, second is the Giants, who have of course been the Patriots’ nemesis. Belichick won two Super Bowls with the Giants, but they also deprived him of two as a head coach with New England.
The Falcons are predictably at number three after very nearly beating them in the Super Bowl in February. Following them, in order, are the Raiders, the Dolphins, and the Seahawks. Miami, to me, seems the least compelling answer in that group.