Bill Parcells breaks down AFC title game

Ex-NFL coach Bill Parcells advanced to the Super Bowl three times in his career, but never had to face three potential Hall of Fame quarterbacks to get there. AP Photo/Ed Reinke

Bill Parcells certainly should be envious of where New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is this weekend -- one victory away from the Super Bowl.

Parcells has been there a few times. He took three teams to the Super Bowl. He won a pair with the New York Giants and lost another with the New England Patriots. Parcells has navigated his share of treacherous postseason games.

But Parcells, now a consultant with the Miami Dolphins, doesn't covet Ryan's road.

If the Jets do reach the Super Bowl, then they will have beaten Peyton Manning in Lucas Oil Stadium, Tom Brady in Gillette Stadium and Ben Roethlisberger at Heinz Field (twice in a month).

"I can't say I've ever faced three in a row like that," Parcells told me by phone from South Florida. "The closest I ever came to anything like that was Joe Montana and then Jim Kelly in the Super Bowl."

That was the 1990 season, but the Giants had a first-round playoff bye and home-field advantage in the divisional round, where the Chicago Bears' quarterback was Mike Tomczak.

But before my conversation with Parcells found much traction on what it must be like to face such a homicidal lineup of quarterbacks, he put the job into perspective.

"I don't look at it like that," Parcells said. "Obviously, those are marquee, proven, winning quarterbacks. That's a difficult task.

"But I kind of look at it like they need to beat the Colts and the Patriots and the Steelers. The dynamics of each of those games is substantially different than the others aside from the fact they have those productive quarterbacks."

Parcells emphasized all opponents have liabilities to target as long as you look at them in their totality and not get too consumed with star players. It just so happens that none of the Jets' opponents are weak at quarterback.

With that, Parcells broke down some of his key points for the Jets and Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.

Tim Graham: So you don't think we should focus too much on the quarterbacks the Jets have to face?

Bill Parcells: There are a lot of other things that come into play from a matchup standpoint besides the efficiency of the opponent's quarterback. I do think this game is a far different game than the one they played last weekend. The style of defense that both teams play will be markedly different than the ones employed by New England and the Colts.

TG: Can you give some examples?

BP: Pittsburgh plays a lot of zone, and they zone blitz and they're better against the run than the other two teams. Off the top of my head, if Pittsburgh is successful in defending the run, then the third-down efficiency of the Jets will probably go down. That will be an issue for the Jets.

Now, on the other side of the coin, Pittsburgh has shown some vulnerability to a good pass rush, and Pittsburgh has some injuries at tackle. The Jets didn't blitz much versus New England. You may see a very different plan from the Jets versus Pittsburgh because besides the fact Roethlisberger will hold the ball, which makes him a little more vulnerable, Pittsburgh doesn't look like they pass protect as well as, say, a team like New England.

The other element that I think is different this week for the Jets is that Pittsburgh has a definite deep threat in Mike Wallace. New England, in my opinion, doesn't have a player like that right now. That deep threat, I think, will force the Jets to do something.

TG: What are your thoughts on Mark Sanchez?

BP: My hat's off to him because he's done a good job for that team. But the key to the Jets more -- not so much that he's not a key because he is; he made some great throws the other day to win that game -- is the Jets' overall running attack. If they don't run the ball well and they're one-dimensional, they will have a hard time with Pittsburgh. If they have some good balance, I think you'll see the Jets have success. But the same's true for Pittsburgh, now. No different. They've got to do something, too, in the run game because I don't know if they'll pass block the Jets well enough to beat them if they don't.

Sanchez will be a good contributor. He'll do what he's been doing, which so far has been good enough.

They've already beat them out there [in Pittsburgh], so they have a good chance. But the game is a toss-up, to me. There's a lot more on the line right now. This is a lot different than a regular-season game. The Jets have a good special teams group. That's another thing Pittsburgh has to be concerned about.

TG: How much does the fact the Jets won at Heinz Field a month ago impact the rematch?

BP: The good thing about this game for the Jets is they've gone to Pittsburgh and beaten them already. So they know they can do it. Pittsburgh will have their ears up because, 'Gee whiz, they came in here and beat us once. They might be able to do that again.' The psychology of the game can play into both teams' hands. That could favor both teams. They both should be crystal clear on the situation.

TG: Troy Polamalu didn't play in that game, though.

BP: That's correct. But I think what will be an even more important weapon is the Steelers' tight end, Heath Miller. He didn't play last time either. In the grand scheme of things, that presents some issues. Polamalu is a player that you have to deal with. He's one of the 11 defenders. But offensively, you don't have any control over where he's going to be and what he's going to do. You have to react to him. Pittsburgh's tight end, the Jets can exercise a measure of control on that player if they want to attempt to.

TG: How do you think the game will go down?

BP: It should be interesting. It's going to be a great game. Both teams have done well, but I can't tell you what's going to happen anymore than I can tell you what's going to happen with the Bears and the Packers. If the Packers play like they played last week, they're going to win.

TG: Well, that's anticlimactic. ... But I can't thank you enough for your analysis, Bill. Should I have ESPN send a check?

BP: No, but remember this, Tim: Sometimes the value of my analysis is commensurate with what I'm charging you for it.