New England Patriots (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS, 6-7 O/U) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2 SU, 6-7 ATS, 5-8 O/U)
NFL: Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 4:25 p.m. EST
The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots will be battling for the No. 1 position in the AFC when they collide at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. New England is one game back at 10-3 following Monday’s loss at Miami, but it would snag the head-to-head tiebreaker with a victory in this one. The Steelers extended their winning streak to eight games when they survived a thriller against Baltimore last weekend.
A bad night
The Patriots have not lost back-to-back games since Week 12 and Week 13 of the 2015 campaign. They will be trying to avoid that fate on the heels of a surprising 27-20 setback against the Dolphins on Monday night. New England was an unbelievably bad 0-for-11 on third downs as its offense an anemic 248 total yards–223 through the air and a hopeless 25 on the ground. Quarterback Tom Brady completed just 24 of his 43 attempts for 233 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Patriots ran the ball a mere 10 times, five by Dion Lewis and five for Rex Burkhead.
“It was a bad night,” Brady assessed. “We’ve had a lot of good nights this year. This was a bad night.”
“We got beat in all three areas of the game,” admitted head coach Bill Belichick, whose press conference predictably consisted of mostly one-word answers and no responses of more than one complete sentence.
The game everyone’s been waiting to see
The Steelers surged into sole possession of first place in the AFC thanks to their 39-38 Sunday night win over Baltimore combined with New England’s unexpected loss to Miami. They can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win this weekend. It is a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship and potential preview of this season’s AFC title tilt. In January of 2017, the Patriots took care of business at home and stomped Pittsburgh 36-17. In that contest, the Steelers allowed 431 yards of total offense as Brady went an awesome 32-for-42 with 384 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
“This is the game everyone’s been waiting to see,” safety Mike Mitchell said. “Obviously it’s got a lot of history to it. I’ve been thinking about this game since we lost it last year. Very much look forward to playing them…. Obviously Tom Brady is the GOAT. I tip my hat to him. He is the GOAT. For us to be the champ, we have to beat the champ. I feel like we [have been able to] beat everyone in the NFL but the Patriots. That’s what it’s been. And now we need to knock them off and prove it to ourselves that we know we can do it, and do it.”
The New England Patriots are:
- 34-15-2 ATS in their last 51 overall
- 13-3 ATS in their last 16 road games
- 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games against teams with winning records
The Pittsburgh Steelers are:
- 1-4 ATS in their last five overall
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games following a win
- 4-12 ATS in their last 16 games against New England
The Patriots have to like their chances of getting back on track. They generally rise to the occasion when it matters most, and regular-season games do not get much bigger than this one. In addition to the fact that New England almost never loses to in a row, it also gets tight Rob Gronkowski back on the field. Gronkowski missed the loss to Miami because of a one-game suspension. The Patriots are 34-15-2 ATS in their last 51 overall, 13-3 ATS in their last 16 on the road, 9-2 ATS in their last 11 against winning opponents, 8-1 ATS in their last nine on the road against opponents with winning home records, 9-1 ATS in their last 10 on grass, and 20-9 ATS in their last 29 against the AFC. Pittsburgh is 1-4 ATS in its last five overall, 1-4 ATS in its last five following a win, 4-12 ATS in the last 16 meetings between the two teams and 1-4 ATS in their last five at home against New England. Expect those trends to continue.
Pick: New England Patriots -3
Brady and the Patriots have never had any trouble against Pittsburgh. He went off against the Steelers in the AFC Championship and there is no reason to think anything will be different this time around. After all, Pitt just gave up 38 points to a Baltimore team that is not exactly an offensive juggernaut. On the bright side, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and company are averaging 33.3 points over their last four outings. The over is 7-1 in the Patriots’ last eight when they play on a Sunday following a Monday night game. It is also 4-0 in the Steelers’ last four overall, 4-0 ATS in their last four at home, 4-1 ATS in their last five against the AFC, 4-0 ATS in their last four on grass, 4-0 ATS in their last four, and 4-1 ATS in their last five in December. Additionally, the over is 9-4 in the last 13 meetings between the two teams and 5-2 ATS in New England’s seven trips to Pittsburgh. following a win, Look for this one to go over the total.