NFL Game of the Week: Patriots vs. Steelers
NFL Game of the Week: Patriots vs. Steelers
Week 15 features the game of the year in the AFC and maybe in the entire NFL, as the New England Patriots will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
This game has been circled on the calendar since training camp started and with these teams currently being the top two seeds in the AFC, home field advantage throughout the playoffs could be on the line. Pittsburgh will look to rebound from last year’s AFC Championship where the Patriots dominated 36-17 in route to a fifth Super Bowl.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has dominated Pittsburgh throughout his illustrious career, posting a 10-2 against the Steelers with 29 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Brady hasn’t thrown an interception against Pittsburgh since 2005.
New England is coming off their first loss since winning eight games in a row. The Patriots lost to Miami 27-20 on Monday night in a surprising upset. New England has not clinched the AFC East but still remain in complete control of their division.
Brady threw for 233 yards, but he also uncharacteristically tossed two interceptions. On top of that, New England’s defense allowed Jay Cutler to throw for 263 yards and three touchdowns. New England will need to improve on that now facing Ben Roethlisberger and company.
Pittsburgh is entering Week 15 with a record of 11-2 after beating Baltimore 39-38 to clinch the AFC North for the second consecutive season. The Steelers now hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC and can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over New England and a Jacksonville loss.
Big time performances from the “Killer B’s” led an incredible Steelers comeback in the fourth quarter last weekend. Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards, while Le’Veon Bell totaled 125 yards and three touchdowns, and Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards.
Patriots’ Offense vs. Steelers’ Defense
Brady, an MVP candidate yet again, continues to thrive as the Patriots signal caller even at age 40. He leads the league in passing and ranks third in touchdowns en route to leading the Patriots to the No. 2 offense in the NFL. Brady will look to continue his dominance of the Steelers this Sunday at Heinz Field.
Brady has plenty of weapons at his disposal including tight end Rob Gronkowski, who will return this week after serving his one-game suspension for an illegal hit against Buffalo. Brady also has one of the more talented wide receivers he has thrown to in his career in Brandin Cooks. Gronkowski is the most dominant tight end in the league and will look to return in a big way after sitting out in last week’s loss. Cooks leads the team with 924 yards and is well on pace to record a third straight 1,000-yard receiving season.
The Pittsburgh defense has made gigantic improvements this season thanks to the dominance of their front-seven. Led by defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt and linebacker Ryan Shazier, the Steeler defense is among the league’s best. However, a season-ending injury to Shazier has now turned the middle linebacker position from an area of strength to one of weakness.
Last week was their first game without Shazier in the lineup, and it was obvious how detrimental of a loss that is. The Baltimore Ravens, one of the worst offenses in the league all year, totaled 413 total yards of offense, including 152 on the ground.
The most glaring weakness on the Steelers defense last season was their secondary. But, with the development of Artie Burns and addition of Joe Haden, the Steelers secondary has quietly become one of the best in the league. The Steelers have given up the third-fewest passing yards in the league to this point and rank eighth in opponent passer rating. Haden has missed the last four games with a leg injury but could return this week and be a huge boost for the Steelers.
The Steelers also rank seventh in interceptions and have the second most sacks in the league. They will look to get after Brady and force him into some uncharacteristic mistakes.
Steelers’ Offense vs. Patriots’ Defense
The “Killer B’s” in Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown lead Pittsburgh’s offense. Those three have carried the Steelers to this point and will be a huge factor in Sunday’s showdown.
Roethlisberger has battled ups-and-downs this season, but he has been able to lead Pittsburgh to the current No. 1 seed in the AFC. “Big Ben” ranks second in the league in passing and fourth in touchdowns. However, he has thrown the third most interceptions in the league.
Bell and Brown lead the NFL in their respective positions. Bell has 75 receptions, most by a running back, to go along with his league-leading 1,105 rushing yards. Brown has a chance to be the first receiver to win the MVP award. He leads the league in receiving by 276 yards and has 99 receptions to go along with it.
New England’s defense has made great strides this season after having one of the worst starts by a defense in NFL history. New England still allows the fourth most per game, but since starting 2-2 they have only allowed 13.5 points per game. Last week against Miami was the first time in eight weeks that they allowed more than 17 points.
The strength of the Patriots’ defense is their secondary. Led by Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, the New England secondary has continued to limit opposing quarterbacks and have been very strong in the red zone. McCourty and Chung rank first and third in tackles on the team, respectively.
Brady and Roethlisberger will face off for the ninth time with Brady holding the edge 7-2. With two defenses that have struggled as of late, these two hall-of-fame quarterbacks will battle one more time in what should be a shootout.
ESPN’s Matchup Predictor gives the Steelers a 53.2 percent chance to beat New England. This game should live up to all the hype and will hopefully be the first of two meetings between these two powerhouses this season.
There are two main questions going into this game. Will the Steelers finally beat Brady and Bill Belichick to get home-field advantage? Or will New England continue its dominance over Pittsburgh? I think the “Killer B’s” get the job done in front of an electric Heinz Field on their way to clinching home-field advantage in the AFC.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 38, New England 34
Camden Tofil is a freshman majoring in advertising. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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