x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Packers aiming to seal wild-card spot with win over Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers have little hope of reaching the NFL play-offs but the Super Bowl champions could play the spoiler today.

The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7) have little hope of reaching the NFL play-offs but the Super Bowl champions could play the spoiler today when they meet the Green Bay Packers (9-4). Pittsburgh will be trying to avoid their first six-game losing streak in a decade, but to do so they must stop one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Green Bay still have hopes of catching the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings (11-2), and based on recent performances the Steelers do not look like blocking their the way.

Pittsburgh's quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was sacked eight times last Sunday in a loss to the lowly Cleveland Browns, so Green Bay's ball-hawking defence will come after him hard. While Roethlisberger has been sacked 38 times, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been sacked only four times in the last three games after having been thrown to the ground a league-high 43 prior to that. Rodgers is fourth in the NFL in quarterback efficiency and has played well even when under pressure, but since the Packers' line began to solidify his production has improved.

Couple Rodgers' accuracy and his lines solid play with a defence that has forced 33 turnovers, second in the NFL, while allowing an average of only 14.2 points per game during the five-game winning run, and you have a team ready for the post-season. And if they beat the Steelers they will be assured of a wild-card play-off spot. The Miami Dolphins (7-6) and the Tennessee Titans (6-7) are both still in the hunt for a wild-card slot but one will not be by tonight.

Tennessee have won six of their last seven games after opening 0-6, making an improbable play-off run behind their quarterback Vince Young. The Dolphins have won four of six because of the play of quarterback, Chad Henne. Young is limping but determined to play. Henne is hot and hoping to get hotter. The one who plays better keeps his team alive. The Minnesota Vikings (11-2) are trying to clinch the NFC North title against the Carolina Panthers (5-8) amid concerns that their 40-year-old quarterback Brett Favre is starting to fade as he did a year ago with the Jets.

Favre has thrown three interceptions in his last two games, equalling his total of the previous 11, but he remains upbeat. "I don't think I'm falling apart in December like people think," Favre said. If he is, so will the Vikings. sports@thenational.ae