New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, December 17, 2017, 4:25 pm Eastern, TV: CBS, NFL Sunday Ticket
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Opening Line: New England -2 1/2 (-115)
Opening Line: New England -2 1/2
Opening Total: 54 1/2
Current Total: 53
Opening Money Line: Patriots -150 / Steeelers +130
Current Money Line: Patriots -135 / Steelers +115
The 11-2 Pittsburgh Steelers and 10-3 New England Patriots have been the two best teams in the AFC by far this season. They meet Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Steelers could basically wrap up home field advantage in the AFC playoffs as they would have a two game lead on the Patriots and hold the tiebreaker with two games to play. The 9-4 Jacksonville Jaguars are also in the mix for home field. Pittsburgh wrapped up the AFC North last week by beating the rival Baltimore Ravens 39-38. New England lost at the Miami Dolphins 27-20 last Monday to snap an eight game winning streak. The Patriots haven’t clinched the AFC East but lead by three games over the 7-6 Buffalo Bills.
This series is tied 15-15. The Patriots have won four straight games against the Steelers. New England won the last meeting 36-17 at home in last season’s AFC Championship Game. The Patriots also won 27-16 in Pittsburgh in the regular season last year.
New England is coached by Bill Belichick. The Patriots have home losses to the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 and against the Carolina Panthers 33-30, plus a road loss at the Dolphins 27-20 last week. New England has road wins over the New Orleans Saints 36-20, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-14, New York Jets 24-17, Denver Broncos 41-16 and Buffalo Bills 23-3 last week, and home wins over the Houston Texans 36-33, Atlanta Falcons 23-7, Los Angeles Chargers 21-13, Oakland Raiders 33-8 and Dolphins 35-17. Against the Dolphins, New England was a 10.5 point favorite and the total was 48. The Patriots are 8-5 ATS and the over is 6-7 this season.
Pittsburgh is coached by Mike Tomlin. The Steelers have a road loss at the Chicago Bears 23-17 in overtime, and a home loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-9. Pittsburgh has road wins over the Cleveland Browns 21-18, Baltimore Ravens 26-9, Kansas City Chiefs 19-13, Detroit Lions 20-15, Indianapolis Colts 20-17 and Cincinnati Bengals 23-20, plus home wins over the Minnesota Vikings 26-9, Bengals 29-14 Tennessee Titans 40-17, Green Bay Packers 31-28 and Baltimore Ravens 39-38 last week. The Steelers have won eight straight games including three straight by last minute field goals. Pittsburgh was a 6 point favorite against Baltimore and the total was 43. The Steelers are 6-7 ATS and the total is 5-8 this season.
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New England is outscoring opponents 28-19 this season. The Patriots are #4 in scoring and #5 in points allowed. New England averages 401 yards per game on offense including 287 passing and 113 rushing yards. New England is #1 in total and #2 in passing offense. The Patriots are allowing 375 yards per game on defense including 254 passing and 121 rushing yards. New England is #23 or worse in all three categories. The Patriots are 75/177 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 73/183. New England has forced 30 sacks and allowed 29 this season. The Patriots are +7 in turnovers.
Quarterback Tom Brady has completed 67.4% of his passes for 3,865 yards with 27 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, along with 21 carries for 24 rushing yards. He has been sacked 29 times. He is probable with an Achilles’ injury. Brian Hoyer is the back-up.
Running back Dion Lewis has 117 carries for 603 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 20 catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. Mike Gillislee has 98 carries for 355 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is probable with an illness. Rex Burkhead has 60 carries for 252 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus 29 catches for 249 yards and 3 touchdowns. James White has 43 carries for 171 yards and has 54 catches for 421 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Receiver Brandin Cooks has 54 catches for 925 yards and 5 touchdowns. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has 55 catches for 847 yards and 7 touchdowns. He returns from a one game suspension. Danny Amendola has 52 catches for 565 yards and 2 touchdowns. Chris Hogan has 34 catches for 439 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is probable with a shoulder injury. Receiver Julian Edelman is out with a torn ACL suffered in the pre-season. Seventeen defensive players and four offensive linemen are listed on the injury report.
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Pittsburgh is outscoring teams 25-19 this season. Pittsburgh is #7 in points allowed and #8 in scoring. The Steelers average 381 yards per game on offense including 282 passing and 100 rushing yards. The Steelers are #4 in total and #2 in passing offense. Pittsburgh allows 304 total yards per game including 201 passing yards and 103 rushing yards. The Steelers are #9 or better in all three categories. Pittsburgh is 75/177 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 64/179. The Steelers have forced 41 sacks and allowed 19 this season. Pittsburgh is even in turnovers. The Steelers have a defensive touchdown and have allowed two this season.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has completed 63.3% of his passes for 3,744 yards with 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has been sacked 19 times and has 38 rushing yards.
Running back Le’Veon Bell has 283 carries for 1,105 yards with 7 touchdowns, along with 75 catches for 579 yards and 2 touchdowns. James Conner has 29 carries for 131 yards.
Receiver Antonio Brown has 99 catches for 1,509 yards and 9 touchdowns. JuJu Smith-Schuster has 37 catches for 585 yards and 5 touchdowns. He returns from a one game suspension, but is questionable with a hamstring injury. Martavis Bryant has 37 catches for 419 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 5 carries for 14 rushing yards. Tight end Jesse James has 39 catches for 356 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight end Vance McDonald is out with a shoulder injury. Six defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report. Linebacker Ryan Shazier is out for the season after undergoing spinal surgery.
The Patriots are 12-4 ATS against the Steelers, including 4-1 in Pittsburgh. The over is 9-4 in this series including 5-2 in Pittsburgh.
The Patriots looked very bad on offense with a gimpy Brady and without Gronk. Brady is still limping but Gronkowski does come back. The Patriots still have a bad defense because of so many injuries, but it was playing much better during the eight game winning streak. Pittsburgh has struggled on defense without their heart and soul Shazier. Still, I like Pittsburgh at home to win and all but clinch home field advantage.