by James Payne – Wannamakeabet Staff Writer
Will Patriots bounce back with home-field advantage on the line?
The Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2, 6-7 ATS) host the New England Patriots (10-3, 8-5 ATS) late Sunday afternoon in a game which will likely decide who holds the number one seed in the AFC for the playoffs. The last time these two met was in the 2016 AFC Championship game when the Patriots rocked the Steelers 36-17 en route to Super Bowl LI.
The Steelers (5-1 at home) are coming off their best offensive performance of the season in a 39-38 win over the Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 500 yards for the 3rd time in his career, along with 2 TDs. 213 of those passing yards came through Antonio Browns hands on 11 receptions for his best yardage performance this season. The third “Killer B” was held to only 48 yards on the ground, but added 77 receiving yards with three total TDs.
Baltimore ranks 14th in yards against per game compared to the Patriots, ranked 29th, and averaging just under 375 YPG. The Ravens defense only give up 18.9 PPG under a point less per game than the Patriots, who just gave up 27 points to a Dolphins offense averaging just over 17 PPG heading into that Week 14 matchup.
Pittsburgh’s defense is averaging 19.2 PPG and ranks just two spots lower than the Patriots. The Steelers are 6th in YPG compared to the Patriots who are 29th.
The Patriots (6-1 away) offense is coming off only their 2nd game of the season in which they scored 20 or fewer points. The other time came in Week 5 against Tampa, who held the Patriots to just 19 points. The common denominator in those two games is that the Patriots were without Rob Gronkowski in both. Tom Brady is coming off his lowest yardage performance of the season with 233, a below average 55.8 completion percentage, 2 of his 6 interceptions of the season and a season low 59.5 rating.
This game is sure to be all about the offense, especially with so much at stake. Tom Brady will not have two poor games in a row and with Gronkowski back; the Steelers defense will be in trouble. The same can be said for the Patriots who struggled with Jay Cutler, Kenyan Drake and Jarvis Landry, all of whom are on a lower tier than the Killer B’s.
O/U 53 – Over
Patriots 31 – 30