Home field advantage throughout the AFC Championship is on the line as the (11-2) Pittsburgh Steelers and (10-3) New England Patriots meet in what could be the biggest game of the season (4:25 PM ET Sunday on CBS).
We will start this preview with a review of New England’s season. Following a stunning 15-point opening week loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Patriots hit the road and picked up a strong win against the current NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. Back to the winning ways they were accustomed to, the defending Super Bowl champs returned to Foxborough where they went 1-1 in their next two games, defeating the Houston Texans but losing to the Carolina Panthers.
The loss against Carolina would be the last for the Patriots up until this past week. New England went on an eight game winning streak, showcasing both a high-scoring offense and low-scoring defense. The Patriots allowed opponents no more than 17 points in a single game during the streak and in six of those games allowed no more than 14 points.
New England looked like the most dominant team in the AFC but that all changed when they went to Florida to take on their AFC East divisional rivals, the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins played exceedingly well considering they entered the game as 11-point home underdogs. Miami trailed just once in the game and entered the fourth quarter up 17 points. New England would manage to close the gap but they played uncharacteristically poorly for much of the game, ultimately costing them.
Entering the game, Tom Brady had thrown just four interceptions but Miami forced the issue and caused Brady to throw into traffic for two more. Brady, who has a 67.4 completion percentage on the season, failed to complete a single third-down conversion and that was ultimately the difference maker. For a team that has played so well this year, that game is certainly one they’d like back, especially because entering their Thursday night contest, the Patriots had control over the AFC. Now, that belongs to the Steelers.
Steelers Season in Review
There must be something in the water in Pennsylvania because at this point of the season both the Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, find themselves in first place and in control of their own destinies when it comes to earning a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Pittsburgh’s road to this point began with two wins, including one over the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings. The win came in dominant fashion as the Steelers outscored the Vikings 26-9 in a completely one-sided affair.
The Steelers followed this up with a baffling loss to the Chicago Bears before defeating the Baltimore Ravens and then losing again to the playoff bound Jacksonville Jaguars. After that home loss, Pittsburgh rebounded and has been on an undefeated eight-game winning streak ever since.
Now the AFC’s and NFL’s hottest team, the Steelers swept their way through the NFC North and their own division, the AFC North. This included the team’s most recent win, a shoot-out over the Ravens which ended in a 39-38 final score.
The Steelers showed incredible offensive prowess as all of their weapons were clicking the best they have all season. QB Ben Roethlisberger had his best game of the year, passing for 506 yards. Roethlisberger threw the ball a ridiculous 66 times that game and completed 44 passes, both season highs. Eleven of these completions for 213 of those yards, went to star wide out Antonio Brown, who was simply everywhere on the field on Sunday night. Brown was unguardable but he wasn’t the only one. Jesse James, a third year player out of Penn State, contributed 97 yards on 10 catches as well. And then there was Le’Veon Bell, who added 77 yards on nine catches, 48 yards on 13 carries and a total of three touchdowns.
Offensively, the Steelers never looked better. It was their third game during the streak and third of the last four, which saw them score at least 30 points. Pittsburgh is definitely letting the motor run right now, making them and not New England, look like the new team to beat in the AFC.
Our Preview’s New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Betting Picks & Predictions
- Tom Brady has thrown 24 touchdowns and three interceptions in nine career regular season games against the Steelers.
- Pittsburgh is a perfect 9-0 SU in their last nine games following failure to cover a spread.
- The Patriots have won 47 of their last 55 December games.
- The Steelers have played to the over in all but one of their last five games.
The last time these two teams met, the Patriots walked off the field celebrating an AFC Championship and the Steelers merely walked off the field, unsure of Roethlisberger’s future among other things.
Both teams are different now but one thing hasn’t changed and that is once again, these two teams are meeting in a game with huge implications. As the season has just three games remaining, if the Steelers win, the Patriots will be two games back of the AFC lead, making it almost impossible for them to catch Pittsburgh. If New England wins however, everything will be all tied up and the Patriots will be back in control of their own destiny as they’ll hold the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh.
Things won’t exactly be easy for the Steelers though, as in Brady era, Pittsburgh has beaten New England just twice and only once since 2004. That last win came in 2011. Since then, the Patriots have dominated the rivalry, winning each of the last four by an average of 15 points.
Better yet, the Patriots are 40-11 when playing following a loss ever since Brady took the reins 16 years ago. They haven’t lost back-to-back games in almost two full seasons and as a result, are headed into this one as favorites with the US oddsmakers. So our Patriots at Steelers betting predictions and picks for this preview are as follows:
- There is no team better in the NFL when it comes to making adjustments than the Patriots. We like the look of New England -3pts @ odds of -101 with Bookmaker and that is this preview’s pick.
- As for the total, both of these teams are riding offense first right now so expect a pretty high scoring affair. The total is generally at 54.5 to 55pts. Take the two teams, both of which have been solid over bets this year, to best that mark and the best option currently is over 54pts @ -110, once again with Bookmaker.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.