New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview
Where: Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When: Sunday, October 23, 4:25 PM ET
TV Broadcast: CBS
Writer’s Pick: New England Patriots (-7.5)
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Betting on the New England Patriots (-7.5)
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Patriots’ offense back is back to being arguably the best in the NFL with Tom Brady pulling the strings. The Pats have hung 33 and 35 points in their last two games – both big wins – with their star QB putting up some insane numbers. Brady has completed 57-of-75 passes (76 percent) for 782 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions in those two games.
Rob Gronkowski has gone into full-on Gronk mode with Brady back. Gronk had seven catches for 162 yards (a new career-high) with a touchdown in the Pats’ 35-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. New England is 2-0 ATS in its last two games and 5-1 ATS on the season.
It’s tough to bet against the Pats when they’re firing on all cylinders like they are at the moment. The defenses they’ve faced – the Browns and the Bengals – aren’t very good, but the Pats will face another subpar AFC North defense in a Steelers unit which was simply torn to shreds by the lowly Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
Brady is more than capable of picking apart a Pittsburgh pass defense which still has an inconsistent pass rush and a mediocre secondary. Brady has completed at least 70 percent of passes and has thrown for at least four touchdowns in each of his last two games against Pittsburgh – both Pats home wins. His main weapon Gronk has directly benefited. He’s averaging seven catches and 110 yards with four total touchdowns in three career games against Pittsburgh.
The Pats defense hasn’t been particularly lights out this season, but you’d think Belichick will have a scheme prepared to limit backup Landry Jones’ effectiveness. The Patriots have also been much more effective at stopping the run this season (No. 8 per DVOA through Week 5), which should make them well-equipped to go up against the Steelers’ new Le’Veon Bell-centric offense.
New England is 7-3 (6-3-1 ATS) against Pittsburgh in the Brady-Belichick era.
Betting on the Pittsburgh Steelers (+7.5)
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ worst fears have been realized. No, we’re not referring to their 30-15 road loss to the Dolphins; instead, it’s the news that Ben Roethlisberger will have to undergo surgery on Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. Big Ben struggled against Miami prior to exiting briefly due to that knee injury, but managed to return.
The Steelers are no strangers to playing without Big Ben. They played four games without him starting at quarterback last season, and went 2-2 in those games. Landry Jones, who is expected to deputize for Roethlisberger, went 1-1 in his two starts. He went a combined 24-of-41 for 377 yards and had three touchdowns against two interceptions.
Obviously, the Pittsburgh offense will change drastically without Big Ben. Antonio Brown’s effectiveness, in particular, will take a significant hit. Brown topped 50 receiving yards just once in the four games Jones and Michael Vick started last season. The Steelers averaged just 20 points in those four games, which likely won’t be enough to beat the free-scoring Patriots.
The Steelers defense will have to play out of its mind to keep within striking distance of the Pats, but that inconsistent unit has at least played a bit better at home. Pittsburgh’s pass rush has recorded seven sacks in its last two home games, as opposed to none in the last two on the road.
The Pats (-7.5) take full advantage of the Big Ben-less Steelers and score a 31-17 road win.
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