Friday, January 9, 2009

Cohen's Divisional Weekend: Steelers vs. Chargers

CHARGERS (9-8) @ STEELERS (12-4): Everyone is going bananas over how hot the Philadelphia Eagles have been the past month, but the fact remains that the Eagles are not the hottest team in football right now, that title belongs to the San Diego Chargers.

For the last five weeks San Diego has won ball games with a huge amount of emotion and guts. They have fought, scratched and crawled through each of their games, capturing a divison title at 8-8 and beating up the Colts a week ago. The Chargers success really got going in week 16 on a trip to Tampa Bay. The Bolts who struggled all season on the east coast, not only beat the Buccaneers, they came from behind in the second half and turned that game into a 48-24 laugher.

Credit has to go to Phillip Rivers, who has really been the most deserving league MVP. Rivers threw for 4,009 yards and 34 touchdowns in the regular season. He is the heart and soul of San Diego and he proves it each week with one gutsy performacne after another.

Darren Sproles, who will start at tailback for the injured LaDanlian Tomlinson, burned the Colts for 300 all purpose yards, and is arguably the fastest man in football next to Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and Jon Stewart.

Yes, these Chargers are red hot, the hottest team in all of football. So will the bone chilling cold of Pittsburgh bother them? In years past we have seen red hot teams play well in spite of the elements, last year's Giants come to mind when the beat the Packers 31-28 in -4 temperatures in Green Bay. But the Chargers are a west coast team, that is accustomed to beautiful weather, traveling to a field that is the worst in football to play on.

The Steelers for their part were the best team in the AFC during the regular season. Ben Roethlisberger overcame several injuries to his arms and legs to throw for 3,301 yards and 17 touchdowns. This with a banged up offensive line and an ineffective running game. The key for Pittsburgh will be to keep Roethlisberger, who is overcoming a concussion he suffered against the Browns in week 17, upright. If he can stand the pressure Pittsburgh should win.

The Steelers defense, is one of the best. Next to the Ravens, no defense is more physical than the Steelers. The pass rush of James Farrior and James Harrison and the play of saftey Troy Polamalu in the secondary will present a huge challenge for the Chargers. Expect the Chargers to get smacked around in this game, something that didnot happen against the Colts soft defense.

This one will be the best game of the weekend. It will go back and forth and noone will know who wins until it is finally over. PICK: STEELERS 20, CHARGERS 17.

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