Pittsburgh Steelers versus New Orleans Saints: Will the Saints clinch number one seed in the NFC?


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Pittsburgh Steelers

New Orleans has been at the top of the NFC for the vast majority of the season. With a hard fought 12-9 win over the Panthers, the Saints come into this contest against the Steelers at 12-2.  A win clinches the number one seed in the NFC and they enter a 5.5 home favorite, where they are 5-2 this season.

The Steelers wont go down easily, however, coming off an emotional win against the Patriots.  Pittsburgh is in a fight of it's own, at 8-5-1 and a half game lead over the Ravens in the AFC North.

Lead by veteran star quarterbacks Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, the teams generally have high potent attacks. Brees has a 31-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio with 75 percent completion rate. Although Roethlisberger has thrown for 4462 yards and 30 touchdowns, he's been intercepted 15 times, which could be a factor in a game decided by turnovers.

Perhaps even a bigger issue for the Steelers will be the possible absence once again of running back James Conner due to injury. Jaylen Samuels did a remarkable job filling in for Conner with 142 yards against New England. However, he's an unproven back going against a Saints run defense that is giving up less than 80 yards per game.

Likely relying on the passing game, Roethlisberger will need time to find top targets Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, who have combined for 185 receptions and 18 touchdowns. This could be a tall order considering the Saints have gotten to opposing quarterbacks 45 times this season.

Not to be outdone in terms of rushing the passer, the Steelers have dropped opposing quarterbacks with regularity, with 46 sacks this season. Therefore, the Saints would be wise running the ball with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, who have a combined 1442 yards and 17 touchdowns. Kamara could also be a nightmare for the Steelers in the passing game, having caught 77 for four touchdowns.

In a contest that could be very tight, the kicking game could be vitally important. New Orleans has a decided advantage with Will Lutz having missed only one kick out of 29 this season.  Chris Boswell has been woeful, connecting on just 11-of-18 field goals with five missed extra points.

The Saints have a better overall team and their home environment is difficult for opposing teams. In an entertaining game, the Steelers could cover the spread, but the Saints will win to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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