Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots Betting Odds - Point Spread Pick
Pittsburgh defeated Kansas City 18-16 last Sunday without scoring a TD. New England used a strong 2nd half to dispose of Houston 34-16 last Saturday. The Patriots won the Week 7 matchup 27-16.
The Steelers have gotten 167 and 170 rushing yards from RB Le’Veon Bell (both team records) in their two playoff wins so far and will want to ride him again this week. The o-line has been creating holes for him but Bell’s unique running style has been confounding defenses all season. New England’s run defense has been good this year but they’re facing an offense that would be happy to have at least 40 rushing attempts in this contest. If they try to stack the box by bringing in a safety, that will leave man coverage on the outside with WRs Antonio Brown and Eli Rogers. Pats HC Bill Belichick is a master at devising specific game plans for each opponent but this dilemma will give him pause. I expect Bell to face a lot of 7-man fronts early as the defense doesn’t want to give up any early deep pass plays. If Bell is successful, it will force the defense to adjust by bringing run blitzes or by dropping S Devin McCourty down to the line. TE Jesse James has emerged as a strong target down the middle of the field and with his size (6’7”, 265), he can box out defenders for contested balls or go up if QB Ben Roethlisberger uncorks one of his air-mail throws, something he does a few times every game. Bell is the key weapon (also in the passing game) but Brown is also great at improvising when the play breaks down. If Big Ben can move in the pocket and extend plays, look for Brown to come up with some big catches. Pittsburgh allowed only 21 sacks this season (2nd-lowest in the NFL) while New England notched 34 sacks, just a hair below 2 per game.
Patriots QB Tom Brady didn’t play very well last week (2 interceptions, less than 50% passes completed) but still authored an 18-point victory. While he hasn’t missed injured TE Rob Gronkowski so far, he will miss him against the Steelers (99 ypg average, 7 TDs in 5 games vs. PITT). TE Martellus Bennett has played admirably in his absence but he is no Gronk. WR Julian Edelman is Brady’s go-to guy and had 38 more receptions in 2016 than his closest teammate (RB James White, 60). Edelman is usually the recipient of very quick releases by Brady and the defense has to be aware of Edelman on these quick slants and crossing routes. WR Michael Floyd is still getting acclimated to the Patriots way but has contributed some big catches so far and has big-game experience from his days in Arizona. As mentioned earlier, White is a big factor out of the backfield on pass plays and the LBs have to keep the nifty back in front of them at all times. WR Chris Hogan (check status) may be a game-time decision and gives Brady a deep threat. OLBs James Harrison and Bud Dupree are really bringing the heat right now and everybody knows how much Brady is affected by a strong pass rush. RB LeGarrette Blount has had the best season in his NFL career and would like to stick it to the team that jettisoned him so early in his Steeler career. He’ll go up against a defense that is playing their best ball of the season right now and have been equally good vs. the run and pass (113 total rushing yards allowed in 2 playoff games).
Public Money Consensus
In this weekends AFC Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots have the public leaning slightly to the Pat’s minus the 5.5 points with just over 58%. The over/under bettors are placing their wagers on this game going over the 50.5 point line with just over 55% confidence.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots Prediction
Pittsburgh had a hiccup after last week’s game as Brown took to social media in the latest rendition of, “Look at me, I’m a millennial!” HC Mike Tomlin has addressed that and don’t expect it to be a distraction this week. The Steelers are 7-1-1 ATS as a playoff road underdog but Brady is 15-3 SU at home in the playoffs. Something has to give and I think it will be the Patriots defense. Bell presents a unique challenge in that if you gang up on him, Brown can make you pay deep. Bell is also great as a receiver and Roethlisberger has been on this stage before and come through. New England made Texans’ QB Brock Osweiler look bad last week but he is no Roethlisberger. I feel Pittsburgh can keep this game close and stay within the number behind Bell and their playmaking defense.
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