Eleven weeks into the season, it’s clear that the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers are the two best teams in the AFC. New England beat Pittsburgh last year in the AFC Championship game, 36-17, in Foxborough, and the two teams meet in Pittsburgh during Week 15. The Patriots are first in the NFL in total offense and passing yards per game, while the Steelers are top five in total defense and passing yards allowed per game. Mike Tomlin and the Steelers haven’t beaten Bill Belichick and the Patriots since October 30, 2011.
There’s certainly a lot to talk when it comes to these two AFC title contenders. CBS Local Sports caught up with Inside the NFL analyst and Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis to discuss who the real Bill Belichick is, why the Week 15 matchup between the Steelers and Patriots will be the most important one yet and how the Jacksonville Jaguars can prevent a Pittsburgh-New England rematch in the AFC Championship.
Lewis, along with Boomer Esiason, Phil Simms and James Brown break down this and other NFL storylines all season long each Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime’s Inside The NFL.
CBS Local Sports: You had many wars with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots during your career. Who is the real Coach Belichick away from the field and the podium?
Ray Lewis: Honestly, I think he’s a guy that puts on a face. The face is only what the outside sees. If you’ve ever spent time with him behind the scenes, he’s just like one of us. He’s probably one of the biggest jokesters. We were at Pro Bowls together, and he always came to practice with some kind of joke. He is a guy who always comes to work prepared, always looking for an edge over everybody else. At the end of the day, he is a guy just like all of us.
CBS Local Sports: Speaking of Belichick, the Patriots and Steelers look like they are on a collision course to meet in the AFC Championship. They first will have to play each other in Week 15. How much will that game impact how you feel about the AFC?
Ray Lewis: When you see people during the season and then you have to deal with them in the playoffs, that game in the regular season means more than the playoff game. What you establish in that game, it won’t change in two weeks. The Steelers are going to get their best shot, they are going to give them everything they have. Then you are going to look for that one weakness. In that game, you are going to find a weakness somewhere, and that same weakness will come back, and it will be exposed in the playoffs. When I sit down to watch this game, I’m going to be looking for that. If this goes to the AFC Championship, the question will be what are the weaknesses of the Patriots and Steelers that the other will be able to exploit.
CBS Local Sports: Who is another AFC team that you have confidence in come playoff time, besides the Patriots and Steelers?
Ray Lewis: It’s so hard. I went through the whole AFC last night. I want to say Jacksonville, I’ve seen that formula before. You can run the ball, you can play a heck of a defense. And hopefully Blake Bortles won’t mess it up and won’t create the wrong turnovers on the wrong side of the field. I think they will need to play to what their strength is, which is to run the ball. If you can’t pick up third downs, punt the ball away and play to your defense. But that’s one of those long shots. We haven’t seen Jacksonville up there in a long time. That’s probably the only team I would put up there in the AFC.