The time has finally come for the NFL’s Regular Season to get underway and what better participants in the season opener than the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and another AFC powerhouse, the Pittsburgh Steelers?
After thinking for several months that the big suspension in this game would be to Patriots QB Tom Brady for his alleged part in the Deflategate scandal, the real Suspensions that will affect this game are on the Pittsburgh Steelers' Roster with RB Le'Veon Bell and WR Martavis Bryant both out for this one. But with the line snapping back to (Patriots) -7, is taking New England still a good NFL pick?
So we are putting the Jimmy Garoppolo Era on hold? Judge Richard Berman said “yes” to that on Thursday in New York City, so the Deflategate Plague and our long national nightmare is over and New England Patriots star QB Tom Brady doesn’t have to worry about being suspended 4 games or even 1 game now. So now the defending Super Bowl champions will be in a particularly foul mood and ready to take it out on someone here in the NFL 2015-16 Regular Season opener and the Pittsburgh Steelers may get to play the part of whipping boy at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT) on Thursday night. Let’s preview this high-profile Week 1 contest and season lidlifter and try to make sense of it all as professional football returns to our living rooms and HDTVs...and portable devices. Beverage and pizza alert.
What: NFL Regular Season Week 1
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
When: Thursday, September 10, 2015
Why: Because it’s finally Football season
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT [UK: Friday, September 11—01:30]
TV: NBC, NFL Game Pass, DirecTV
Announcers: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Radio: SiriusXM—Steelers Broadcast: SIRI 83 (Internet 824); Patriots Broadcast: SIRI 93 (Internet 818); National Broadcast: SIRI 88 (Internet 88), Westwood One Sports
Internet: NFL Game Pass, DirecTV Live Streaming Red Zone 703, SUNDAY TICKET Game Mix 702
Weather Forecast: Scattered Thunderstorms, High: 85°, Low: 60°, 40% Relative Humidity, Winds SW 10 mph
Significance: NFL 2015/16 Regular Season opener
What’s New? Brady's 4-game suspension nixed
Point Spread: Patriots -7 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
Total: 51 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)
Moneyline: Patriots -285 (Pinnacle; Steelers +252)
The Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4 Preseason, 73 PF-122 PA) are hoping the Regular Season isn’t going to be as bad as the Preseason was where the Black and Gold only registered one win and saw starting Center Maurkice Pouncey (Left Fibula/Ankle) go down with a serious injury in a Preseason game against the Tennessee Titans on a freak play where he was hit by his own man. The Steelers are hoping to have Pouncey back in Week 12. Pittsburgh’s Defense also looked porous in the Preseason, and the loss of Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau (Titans) may hurt as much than the recent retirements of Defensive players like Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith and Ike Taylor.
What was once a proud part of this team—solid Defense—is now just a distant memory and maybe betting the Overs in Steelers' games is worth watching? We’ll see soon enough. Pittsburgh (18/1 NFL odds to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) comes into this game down for a number of reasons and the Steelers may even be a little worn out from having played one more Preseason game than everyone else except the Minnesota Vikings, whom they played in the Hall of Fame Game.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin (68-67-2 ATS) and the Steelers will also be without the services of their best RB (Le’Veon Bell) and second-best WR Martavis Bryant who are both serving Suspensions for violating the NFL’s Drug Policy (smoking marijuana) so new Free Agent-signee DeAngelo Williams (Panthers) and star WR Antonio Brown will be the main skill position players Pittsburgh QB Ben Rothliesberger (53-60 ATS vs. Non-Division) will have to work with. The pressure will also be on here on brand new K Garrett Hartley, WR Markus Wheaton and TE Heath Miller, the latter two who also look to be targeted much against the Patriots.
New England may run more than anticipated with Pittsburgh’s DL a big question mark and Steelers LBs Lawrence Timmons, Arthur Moats, Jarvis Jones and maybe top Draft Pick Rookie Bud Dupree (Kentucky) and DBs William Gay, Mike Mitchell, Will Allen, Shamarko Thomas and maybe Rookies Senquez Golson (Ole Miss) and Doran Grant (Ohio State) will be tested by Brady and his numerous skill position targets. The Steelers will be tested.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots (2-3 Preseason, 63 PF-74 PA, 0-2 Home) have likely been electrified by all of the off-the-field stuff so expect head Coach Bill Belichick (151-113-5 ATS) to rally the troops and the Emotion factor and the site (Gillette Stadium) will definitely favor the hosts here. And with receiving targets like WRs Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, and TE Rob Gronkowski, among many others, this is a team that will never have trouble rallying from a deficit. Dynasty’s don’t happen by accident. On the ground, New England (8/1 to win Super Bowl 50, William Hill) will look to rush RB LeGarrette Blount much, and this Offense is deep all around, even on the OL where the Patriots took Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason high in April’s NFL Draft.
On Defense, the Patriots (3/1 to win AFC, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) did see All Pro CB Darrelle Revis sign with their AFC East rival New York Jets while lovable and long-time New England NT Vince Wilfork headed to the Houston Texans. But New England did select Texas DL Malcolm Brown with the 32nd Pick in Round 1 of the NFL Draft so the Patriots Defense should be almost as good as last year’s unit which was one of the best in quite some time (allowed 20 ppg). But the ugly Truth here is that losing a guy at the top of the Food Chain like Revis is a big dent as the only way to replace a lockdown Corner like him would be to get him back and that ain’t happening. The Defense will should still be impressive though.
Series Numbers, Recent Relevant Trends and Game Expectations
The New England Patriots are 9-14 SU Lifetime against the Pittsburgh Steelers (492 PF-543 PA), but the Patriots have W8 of L11 meetings in this series vs. the Black and Gold in these Brady and Belichick Years including the last meeting two seasons ago (2013) here in New England where the Patriots thrashed the Steelers, 55-31 in 2103 at Gillette Stadium as 5½-point favorites in Week 9. Trend-wise, the Patriots are an impressive 9-3 ATS L12 vs. Steelers and New England is 5-2 ATS L7 against Pittsburgh here at Home at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
With the Patriots losing their Week 1 game last season at Miami (Dolphins 33-20), don’t expect New England (7-1 SU at Home in 2014) to be caught off-guard and with all of the emotion of the Deflategate crap finally ending, a healthy and deep Roster, the dreaded Preseason behind them and the game at Home, almost everything favors the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots here—even all of the problems with the Steelers (Lousy Preseason, Defensive retirements, LeBeau leaving, Bell and Bryant Suspensions, Pouncey’s Injury).
Pittsburgh (9-3 vs. AFC in 2014) could have trouble scoring here while Brady will try to get new guys like WR Josh Boyce, WR Aaron Dobson and WR Brian Tyms involved if they get the playing time and stick with the team, which most should. But the bulk of Brady’s focus, as always, will be on solid TEs Rob Gronkowski and TE Scott Chandler, the aforementioned WRs Amendola, Edelman and LaFell and RB Blount. And expect the New England Offense (30 ppg in 2014) to score at least 3, probably 4 and maybe even 5 TDs vs. Pittsburgh in the prime time national TV spotlight.
Expect Big Ben to look for superstar WR Brown much when Pittsburgh has the pigskin, give the football to new RB Williams a great deal and try to use his TEs as much as possible but New England’s Defense improved considerably last season while the Steelers' Defense seems to be devolving these last five years or so and any rebuilding will take time. This team has a great fan base, but the Pittsburgh Offense is suddenly much better than the Defense and the loss of DC LeBeau can’t be understated. And the emotions and perceived anger the host Patriots should have here could be worth around a TD in this situation in one of the most talked about and anticipated games in NFL history. And for all the wrong reasons.
Predicted Final Score: New England Patriots 34 Pittsburgh Steelers 19
NFL Pick: Patriots -7 (-102) at Pinnacle