Patriots vs Steelers – NFL Pick for December 17th
It’s still unbelievable how quickly the sports betting world seems to turn on the New England Patriots the moment they show they’re remotely human.
A loss to the middling Miami Dolphins certainly exposed the Pats as less than infallible, but it also can be explained away. Miami was, after all, at home in a divisional bout fighting for their playoff lives.
Whether Bill Belichick and company care to admit it, the offense missed Rob Gronkowski, the defense didn’t make an impact and it’s possible the Pats as a whole overlooked Miami with a huge week 15 clash versus the Pittsburgh Steelers looming.
That doesn’t mean the Patriots can’t or won’t win Super Bowl 52 (still favored at Bovada, +275) and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re going to lose this week.
The setting doesn’t look easy, of course.
Heinz Field is a brutal place to try to get wins, while the Steelers look rather formidable at 11-2. Pittsburgh has been especially unstoppable of late, with Ben Roethlisberger turning things up a notch on offense during a scorching 8-game winning streak.
Does that streak get snapped this week against the 10-3 Pats, or are the Steelers too fun to pass up as home underdogs? Let’s break this week 15 clash of titans down to find out:
First off, my gut instinct is to not bet against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Like, ever.
New England doesn’t lose very often and this is a team that was in a 28-3 hole in last year’s Super Bowl and still found a way to win. Betting against them just doesn’t work out very much.
There is so much at stake here, too. The Pats are 10-3 and this game virtually decides which team gets the #1 bye and home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Not only is that a lot to play for, but the Patriots tend to respond well to adversity. Losing to the Dolphins was cause for pause, as Jay Cutler hadn’t been very good for much of 2017 and Miami, in general, seemed to be running on fumes heading into that game.
Brady looked awful last week and it was shocking to see New England play with such a lack of discipline, as well as an inability to execute when it really mattered.
While that’s mildly discouraging, that’s still just one game and the Pats aren’t known for dropping consecutive contests.
They haven’t done it this year and they didn’t do it last year. It happened in 2015, but not playing for anything in week 17 and an OT thriller at Denver made that a possibility three years ago.
The last time this team was really doubted, they got housed by the Kansas City Chiefs in week four, 41-14. Belichick coined his now famous “on to Cincinnati” response after the game and the Pats wouldn’t lose another meaningful game the rest of the season.
In fact, they’d go on to win another title.
It remains to be seen if the Pats will do something similar here, but I’m calling their week 14 debacle a fluke. Their history against the Steelers bodes well, too, as they handled Pittsburgh fairly easily in an AFC title game win last season and have now secured wins in 4 straight games in the series – including 5 of the last 6.
This just has never been a great matchup for Ben Roethlisberger or Mike Tomlin. Belichick knows how to out-coach Tomlin, while Big Ben tends to put up numbers that end up feeling empty.
New England has also been quite stout on the road this year (6-1). Before last week’s loss, they were perfect away from home and that’s only compounded by a 4-1 run at Heinz Field the last five times New England went there. The last time the Steelers beat the Pats, Aaron Hernandez was still a thing in New England.
Obviously, the Steelers have a ton of talent offensively and they’ll have a mild edge at home. However, Belichick defenses have a strong history of taking away the opposition’s running game. That was certainly the case in the AFC title game last year and the year before Le’Veon Bell failed to score and only managed 3.8 yards per carry.
I don’t know if the Pats shut him down, but they’ll probably sell out to stop the run initially and then hope their pressure and star corners can limit the effectiveness of the connection between Big Ben and Antonio Brown.
Vegas projects this as a bit of a shootout, and that’d benefit the Pats, too. The Steelers are going to see a sharp knock defensively, as star inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (spine) leaves a huge hole in the middle of the field. That was already made evident last week when Pittsburgh gave up an astonishing 38 points to a weak Ravens offense and almost lost at home.
This time the Steelers will give up plenty of yardage and points again but I think they do lose at home. Regardless of the way the final stretch shapes these playoffs up, these are the top two teams in the AFC and there’s a good chance we see them back in the AFC title game, yet again. The Patriots need this game a little more, though, and I think they get it.
While all that was a mouthful, I could have probably stopped at New England’s -150 Money Line. How often do bettors get the Pats at -150 or anything close to it? The answer is almost never and I’ll gladly hop on it to try to get a win this week.