Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5; 11-6-1 ATS; 6-12 O/U) vs. New England Patriots (15-2; 14-3 ATS; 7-10 O/U)
AFC Championship Game: Sunday, January 22nd, 2017 at 6:40pm EST
Line: New England -5.5
The New England Patriots will host the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game Sunday evening from Gillette Stadium. The Steelers edged the Chiefs 18-16 on Sunday night and the Patriots handled the Texans 34-16 at home on Saturday night. New England beat Pittsburgh 27-16 at Heinz Field back in Week Seven. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not play in that contest.
Steelers Edge Chiefs behind Six Field Goals
The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs with six field goals in their 18-16 road win last weekend. The Steelers ran the ball frequently, turning several clock-eating drives into field goals, and played great defensively. Ben Roethlisberger did enough to get the win, throwing for 224 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. Roethlisberger has not exactly put up big numbers in his two playoff games, throwing for 421 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Le’Veon Bell was outstanding in the win, rushing for a whopping 170 yards off 30 carries, and he is a big reason why the Steelers won this game. Bell was able to collect 81 rushing yards against the Patriots in week seven, and I think for the Steelers to win this game Bell will need to have another huge game. Antonio Brown played well in the win last week, making six catches for 108 yards. Brown was able to make seven catches for 106 yards against the Patriots in week seven. Pittsburgh scored an average of 24.9 points per game in the regular season, ranking them 11th in the NFL.
Thee Steelers defense came up huge in the win over the Chiefs, conceding only 227 total yards. The Chiefs were only able to rush for 61 yards and went 2 for 9 on their down attempts. Watch for Ryan Shazier in this one as he has now made one interception in both playoff games, and has now made a pick in four straight games. The Steelers defense will need to keep an eye on the Patriots running game which burned the Steelers for 140 rushing yards in the week seven meeting this season. Pittsburgh conceded an average of 20.4 points per game this season, placing them tenth in the NFL.
Patriots Handle Texans, Head to Sixth Straight AFC Title Game
The New England Patriots pulled away in the second half in their 34-16 win over the Houston Texans last weekend, advancing to the AFC Championship game for the sixth consecutive season. The Patriots allowed the Texans to hand around in the first half, but outscored the Texans 17-3 in the second half. Tom Brady was not quite himself, connecting on 18 of 38 passes for 287 yards with two touchdowns but he tossed two interceptions. The veteran quarterback had a phenomenal regular season, posting a dazzling 28:2 TD to INT ratio. Brady was able to throw two touchdowns with zero interception in week seven against the Steelers. Julian Edelman was outstanding last week, making eight catches for 137 yards, and he will get a lot of targets again this week after he made nine grabs for 60 yards against Pittsburgh earlier this season. Dion Lewis was the star of the game against Houston, recording three touchdowns which included a 98-yard kick return for a TD. Lewis and Blount give the Patriots a dangerous duo on the ground. The Patriots continue to play without star tight end Rob Gronkowski, and receiver Malcom Mitchell is questionable for this contest. New England scored an average of 27.6 points per game in the regular season, good for third in the NFL.
The Patriots defense was tremendous in the win, holding the Texans to only 285 yards and made three interceptions. They will be facing a much better offense in Pittsburgh who feature three big weapons in Bell, Roethlisberger and Brown. Watch for cornerback Logan Ryan who made an interception and deflected three passes last week. The 26-year old cornerback leads New England with 99 total tackles on the season. The Patriots receive a ton of recognition for their offense, however their defense has been even more impressive as they finished the season with the number one ranked defense, allowing an average of only 15.6 points per game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are:
- 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games against New England.
The New England Patriots are:
- 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games following a straight up win.
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home playoff games.
- 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games against a team with a winning record.
- 14-3 ATS in their last 17 games overall.
I am siding with the Patriots in this contest. I feel this is a good matchup for New England on both sides of the ball. The Patriots had great success stopping the run all season, allowing an average of only 88.6 rushing yards per game, ranking them third in the NFL, so I expect them to at least slow down Le’Veon Bell. Also, Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t looked the greatest in the playoffs, throwing two touchdowns with three interceptions. Tom Brady should have success against an average Steelers secondary, and the Patriots were able to rush for 140 yards against the Steelers in week seven. Take the Patriots at home in this one.
Pick: New England Patriots -5.5
Both teams are sharp on both offense and defense however New England’s defense has been incredible. They should definitely slow down the Steelers much like the Chiefs did, and I am confident the Patriots number one ranked defense will really make life difficult for Roethlisberger, plus the under is 5-1 in the Steelers last six road games against a team with a winning home record. The Patriots should have success offensively themselves, but the under is 5-1 in the Patriots last six Conference Championship games, and with this high total, I think it hits again in this one.