The class of the 2004 draft will be on display in East Rutherford, New Jersey in this game. It’s Ben Roethlisberger vs. Eli Manning. These two teams have won four out of the past seven Super Bowls and are considered by many to be the class of their conferences. When these two teams collide, what is there in this game that wouldn’t excite an NFL fan?
The major underlying story to this game is the fallout of Hurricane Sandy. Because this game is in the late window (4:25 e.s.t.), the Steelers have the opportunity to stay in Pittsburgh until game day since all available hotels will be without power until at least Tuesday. They will take a one-hour flight to New Jersey Sunday morning and ready themselves to play almost immediately. That would be tough for any team to overcome. For the Giants and their fans, they have to deal with what the Saints did after Hurricane Katrina: a lot of damage to their community. What the Saints and their fan base did in 2006 was pool together under one roof and will their team on to victory during a Monday Night contest against the Falcons. They won that very emotional game 23-3. I expect Giants fans to do the same and come out to support their team and scream their heads off looking for something positive to take home with them. This will be a very tough game for the Steelers to win because of the surrounding circumstances, but if any team in the NFL can win in this situation, it would be Pittsburgh.
Outside of the emotional turmoil that is behind this game, there is also a football perspective to keep in mind. The Steelers and Giants are two of the best fourth quarter comeback teams in the entire league. Just this year, Eli Manning has three fourth quarter comebacks. In his career he has totaled 28 game-winning drives. Roethlisberger has two game-winning drives this season and matches Manning’s 28 career game-winners with 28 of his own. These two quarterbacks are always being compared to one another, and with good reason. They both entered the league in the same year, they both have two Super Bowl rings, and they both have totaled a large amount of wins. To me, all this means that we are in for an amazing fourth quarter. I am going to use last year’s Week 9 match-up between the Patriots and the Giants as an example to how I think this game is going to go. I expect to see a lot of good defense played in the first half, and then a back and fourth scoring contest during the second half. Actually the Giants have been in a couple of those this year (Week 1 vs. Dallas and Week 4 @ Philadelphia). The Giants lost both of these games. If we get a game like this (and I expect we will) I will look for the Steelers to pick up the “W”.
I do not have any good case to make for either team in this game. The Giants have looked very impressive so far this year, and have proven that they can win games outside of their division. The Steelers do not play as well on the road as they do at home, but they are one of the few teams in football that can make another stadium home for themselves. Their fans travel better than just about any other franchise in the entire league (them and Green Bay). As far as statistics go, I would say that you can call this game a stalemate. Pittsburgh’s strength is still their defense (which is ranked #2 in the league) and so far this year, the Giants offense is what is keeping their team afloat (ranked #4). When it comes down to it, I have to say that I think the Steelers’ defense will do enough to contain the right arm of Eli Manning (which didn’t look particularly sharp against another good defense in Dallas). I know that this is the generic reasoning behind anybody who picks against the Giants, but I think that Roethlisberger has a chance to dissect an injury-torn secondary. I do like what Stevie Brown has done for the Giants so far this season, but at this point the Giants’ defense is a house of cards; one big blow from falling apart. This could be the potential downfall for them as we head into the second half of the season.
Ben Roethlisberger may not have a field day against the Giants, but I do expect him to do just enough to get the job done in what should be a very close game with a very exciting fourth quarter. Like I said, neither team has a clear-cut advantage over the other. I just think the Steelers will earn the victory, despite the mess created by Hurricane Sandy.
Pittsburgh 28, New York 24