We enter one of the biggest games of the regular season, as the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers meet in a battle of AFC supremacy. The Patriots hurt their stock last week, as they took a rather ugly loss against the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. Bill Belichick was asked if his team was looking ahead after the game, and he looked fairly annoyed with the question, of course. But deep down, I think he knows his team were overlooking the Dolphins to Week 15 against the Steelers.
We cashed in on the Dolphins, so we seen that coming from a mile away. The Patriots played without Rob Gronkowski because of his suspension, but will have him back. Some people believe that he should have gotten much more than a game suspension, and I tend to agree. Considering the new stance towards player safety, two games may have been the suitable answer.
The presence of Gronk will make this a better game as a spectator, though. Their offense played drunk last week. No Gronkowski was part of it, but no one stood out and had a good game. Tom Brady threw 2 interceptions in a game for the first time this season. He was ugly with 1 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and a 55.8% completion percentage. The Dolphins drew up a solid game plan and took care of the Pats. The Patriots always seem to struggle in Miami, so it wasn’t the biggest upset in the world. The loss brought New England to 10-3. Conversely, the Steelers have the upper-hand at 11-2.
This game will most likely determine the number 1 seed in the AFC. The Patriots would take the tiebreaker if both teams have identical records at the end of the year. Meanwhile, a win for the Steelers would clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win on Sunday and a Jags loss against the Titans. They will lock in a first-round bye with a win today, regardless of what anyone else does the rest of the way. Big stakes in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. Head below for our free Patriots vs. Steelers pick.
New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Betting Odds:
vs. Steelers +2.5(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Patriots vs. Steelers Pick:
How often do you see Brock Osweiler outperforming Tom Brady? Well, in the past week, Osweiler was the better quarterback. Osweiler filled in on Thursday night and played better than anyone could expect. Brady played as poorly than anyone could have expected last Sunday. It would be foolish to read too far into that outing from Brady and the Pats. They aren’t unbreakable, but they tend to take the big games seriously. The Patriots have won the last four meetings against the Steelers. Their most recent coming in the postseason, a 36-17 win for the Patriots. They’ve also won eight of the last ten games.
The Patriots are averaging 400.5 yards per game for 2nd in the NFL. Despite injuries, especially to Julian Edelman, the Pats have been making it work. Brady has thrown for an average of 287.2 yards per game this season, 1st in the league. They did not look sharp last week, but they will have Gronkowski back this week. The Steelers had major difficulties slowing down the Ravens on the ground last week. Ever since Ryan Shazier went down, the Steelers have been having a ton of issues defending the run. As soon as he was injured against the Bengals, they were getting gashed by a backup running back.
The next week, the Steelers had problems again trying to contain Alex Collins. Collins ran for 120 yards and 1 touchdown and was getting some good chunk yardage. Flacco threw for 269 yards and a touchdown. Belichick is the master of exploiting weaknesses. They will draw something up to take advantage of their weakness in the middle of the field.
Having Gronkowski back is going to provide a big lift. If the Patriots find success on the ground early, and the Steelers haven’t shown they can stop the run without Shazier, they’re going to destroy them on the play action across the middle of the field. I bet against Brady last week and it paid off. The Steelers are coming off a hard-fought game against their rivals, while the Patriots didn’t even get off the plane last week. The Pats should look much better. After that putrid performance, the Patriots are going to snap back against the Steelers.
PICK: PATRIOTS -2.5 (-110)