Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
Two of the most winning franchises in the NFL for the last decade face off as the Pittsburgh Steelers host the New England Patriots on Sunday. The Patriots are -2.5 point favorites over the Steelers with an over/under point total set at 52.
The Pittsburgh Steers haven’t had their bye week yet this year but Mike Tomlin’s team surely would benefit from one about right now. The Steelers are doing what they need to do, winning football games, but in the process they are getting banged up and bruised as is the case with every team every season in the NFL. QB Ben Roethlisberger is getting hit plenty in the pocket but it hasn’t prevented him from completing 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,937 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions while being sacked 20 times. Rashard Mendenhall has been banged up averaging 3.7 yards a carry and scoring three touchdowns and Isaac Redman has been the more effective runner averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Mike Wallace is Roethlisberger’s top target with 36 catches and five touchdowns followed by Hines Ward and Antonio Brown though Ward is questionable for this one. The Pittsburgh defense is third in the NFL allowing just 279 yards per game though they have just three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and have 17 sacks. James Farrior leads the Steelers in tackles with 45, Troy Polamalu has 43, and Ryan Clark has 42. The Steelers defense will have their work cut out for them this week.
The New England Patriots have the best record in the AFC losing just once, on the road at Buffalo in a game where they turned the ball over. Over the past several seasons New England has become the best team during the regular season and a team that fails in the playoffs and they are looking to shed that tag this season and get another Super Bowl ring. Tom Brady is putting up big numbers completing 67.5 percent of his passes for 2,163 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. New England has been banged up at running back but coming off the bye they are healthy and we should see BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, and Stevan Ridley, all of which have played and have been effective this year. Wes Welker already has 51 catches while tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have 29 and 27 catches each followed by Deion Branch with 26. The patriots defense has been shredded and are dead last in the NFL in yards allowed per game at 423.7 while they have 10 sacks, three fumble recoveries, and eight interceptions. Devin McCourty leads new England with 38 tackles, Patrick Chung has 37, and Kyle Arrington has 34 but Jerrod Mayo should return to the lineup as he has been dinged up this season. There are few teams who have been successful in the post season with a horrible defense and unless the Pats correct that issue in a hurry they will need to break that trend to reach their goal of winning the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh is 5-1 against the spread in their last six home games, 1-5 against the spread following a straight up win, and 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games as a home underdog. New England is 4-1 against the spread in their last five against AFC teams, 5-1 against the spread in their last six as a road favorite, and 15-5-1 against the spread following a game which they didn’t cover. New England has covered in six of their last seven games in Pittsburgh and eight of the last 10 meetings of these two overall.
In big games a good defense beats a good offense almost every time and while New England has dominated the games between these two in relation to the spread, most of those covers have been as an underdog. I am a big believer in defense and the disparity here is way too big to overcome for the Patriots, even with two weeks to prepare.
Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 New England Patriots