Tom Brady took an offseason's worth of frustration out on the Pittsburgh Steelers with four TD passes and delivered a 28-21 victory to the Foxboro faithful. Let us analyze this game with an eye towards our NFL picks in Week 2.
Brady To Gronkowski|
The opposition knows Brady to Gronkowski is one of the most feared batteries in the entire league. Head coaches devise schemes, plans and gimmicks to shutdown this dynamic duo but very rarely do any of them work. Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin understood that all too well after last night's 28-21 defeat at the hands of the world champions.
Tom Brady has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal but none bigger (literally) than 6'6" Rob Gronkowski and the recently acquired 6'7" Scott Chandler, formerly of the Buffalo Bills. They are twin tight end terrors and when you factor in the human-catching-machine Julian Edelman at slot receiver as well as a backfield adept at receiving passes, then Tom Brady simply needs protection from his offensive line in order to emasculate opposing defenses. Speaking of that line the Patriots started three, count'em three, rookies on Thursday night.
Brady's release might have even been a fraction quicker than it usually is because of the novices protecting him and the results were sensational. Tom Terrific went 25-of-32 passing for 288 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Brady set a team record with 19 straight completions, and registered his 23rd game with four or more touchdown passes, tying him with Brett Favre for third all-time. Rob Gronkowski was the recipient of three of those four touchdown passes while fellow twin terror Scott Chandler hauled in the other.
Late TD Gives Bettors a Push
When the NFL announced that they were suspending Tom Brady for four games the NFL odds plummeted from Patriots -6 to -2½ and I bellowed from every open window I could find that grabbing the Pats -2½ was value personified because if Brady's suspension was ultimately overturned then a glorious middle would be created. We all knew that the line would spike if Judge Berman vacated the suspension and sure enough he did and the Pats closed at -7 when the game kicked.
So here you have the Pats -2½ and now we get the holy grail of middles by grabbing the Steelers plus a touchdown but how about if we buy the hook and move off the all-important seven? So now we have the visitors at +7½ (-120). And guess what happened? A touchdown pass from Big Ben Roethlisberger to wide receiver extraordinaire Antonio Brown with only two seconds remaining narrowed the 14 point lead to seven. The magical seven rears its head yet again and for all those sharps who had the foresight to buy the favorite at a rock bottom price and bide their time until the verdict was rendered then grab the underdog at a big price then I say well done fine sir! There is a very good reason why I always buy onto, off of or through threes and sevens before placing my NFL picks because that is the difference between a field goal and a touchdown or more importantly the difference between a win, push and a loss.
The Patriots and the Steelers have 10 days to prepare for their Week 2 opponents. New England will travel north to Buffalo and meet a coach with a very personal axe to grind in Rex Ryan. Ryan, formerly of the Jets, has retooled the Bills' defense and has the very talented Sammy Watkins on offense complemented by veteran Percy Harvin on the other side. But whether that offensive engine can rev depends upon the untested arm of Tyrod Taylor who won the starting QB spot over EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel.
Pittsburgh will lick their wounds from their opening day loss and welcome the San Francisco 49ers to Heinz Field. The Steelers will get a break from the relentless New England attack and face a far more pedestrian Niners offense. But looking further ahead the Steelers will see the return of one of the most feared running backs in the league when Le'Veon Bell returns in Week 3 and speedy wideout Martavis Bryant comes back from a four-game suspension in Week 5.