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Wayne Hunter's Play Will Be Very Important in AFC Championship Game

Against the league's top defense, it is impossible to hide anybody. The Jets will be playing their backup right tackle, Wayne Hunter. Wayne has shown an ability to play excellent football like he did against the Bears. He will be one guy to watch.

In the passing game, Wayne will be matched up against Lamarr Woodley. It is possible he will receive abundant help like he did in the first meeting between the teams. Hunter and his help prevented Woodley from making much noise. The outside linebacker from Michigan is an excellent pass rusher and capable of destroying drives by getting to the quarterback. Wayne's play against New England was not terrible, but it was uneven. He was beaten a few times by rushers far less talented than Woodley. Then again, Wayne shut down Julius Peppers in Week 16 so he is capable of holding his own against top competition. Giving Mark Sanchez time and keeping him comfortable is obviously pretty important against an attacking defense that frequently rattles the opposition. That means keeping Woodley out of his face.

Just as important will be Wayne's work in the run game. The Jets love to run it to the right side. When they run, it goes right of Nick Mangold about 55% of the time. The weakest area of Pittsburgh's run defense is over right tackle, albeit one where they are still above the league average in their absurdly good run defense. End Ziggy Hood will line up directly over Hunter. Hood is a starter in place of Aaron Smith, who has been out for months. He has been less than stout at times against the run, contributing to the relative lack of success the Steelers have had against runs right at him.

If Hunter can handle hood, the Jets gain a numbers advantage. Brandon Moore, Tony Richardson, and a pulling Matt Slauson can make their way to the second level to block the linebackers on that side.

New York's offensive success will depend in no small part on the job Wayne does.