Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5 SU, 2-5 ATS)
The Steelers were determined to prove to anyone that would listen that they weren’t nearly as bad as their 0-4 record would indicate. They then proceeded to rattle off a road win over the Jets and then claimed a huge victory over arch nemesis, the Baltimore Ravens. However the euphoria was short-lived as they allowed Terrelle Pryor to bust up the middle on the first play from scrimmage of Sunday’s game for a record setting 93 yard scamper into the endzone. By the time the first half was finished the Steelers were looking at a 21-3 deficit and a mountain they could not quite climb despite shutting the Raiders out in the second half.
Pittsburgh was installed as 2 ½ point road chalk in the NFL odds against the Raiders but could not return a winning ticket for their backers. In addition to losing the game the Steelers also lost three offensive linemen to injury. This can’t be good news for any team particularly one who is having issues moving the ball in a forward direction.
As if the news couldn’t get any worse for Mike Tomlin’s crew, kicker Shaun Suisham missed a pair of field goals inside the 35-yard line which could have turned a narrow loss into an ugly win. Former Patriot punter Zoltan Mesko, acquired off the free agent wire earlier this season, has been as erratic as Suisham with shanked punts and bobbled snaps.
New England Patriots (6-2 SU, 4-4 ATS)
Tom Brady and company overcame a lackluster first half to roar back and squish the Fish to the tune of a 27-17 victory. Brady’s corps of receivers is slowly getting healthy with the emergence of All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski back on the playing field and wreaking more havoc than his modest stat line on Sunday would suggest by taking attention away from the other receivers and drawing crucial pass interference calls. Second round pick Aaron Dobson has finally picked up his game after a slow start and even the injury prone Danny Amendola was back in uniform though his contributions versus the Dolphins were slight.
The only casualty of all this health and wellness is the Cinderella Story for the Patriots this season, Kenbrell Thompkins. Thompkins has slowly taken a back seat while fellow rookie, and the more highly touted, Aaron Dobson is earning Brady’s trust. But things can change in a hurry as opponent matchups dictate and Thompkins could find himself back in the mix if he finds separation from his defenders.
It’s a bit hard to believe that the aerial juggernaut known as the New England Patriots is currently ranked 23rd in the league while their rushing game is a pleasantly surprising 12th. Defensively, the Pats have suffered immensely without perennial All-Pro Vince Wilfork clogging the middle, ranking 31st against the run but improving markedly against the pass, allowing only 215 yards on average through the air, good for 5th in the NFL.
This looks like a battle of the running backs with Pittsburgh having only modest success moving the ball through the air and New England shutting down even the most prolific aerial attacks. The Steelers will look to exploit the Patriots anemic run stop unit and keep their fingers crossed that they can chew up enough time of possession which will limit Tom Brady’s opportunities.
The same can pretty much be said of the Patriots who are using a hybrid rushing attack composed of the dynamic Stevan Ridley and the bruising LeGarrette Blount. But the key difference here is that the Pats can rely on their rushers getting first downs whereas Pittsburgh cannot.
I’m not sure how Pittsburgh keeps pace with the Patriots. This looks like a decent play on the home chalk for your NFL picks with a lean on the Under.