The first Sunday Night prime time NFL game of the season looks like a good one as the Pittsburgh Steelers head up to Foxboro to take on the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. Unfortunately, newly signed Patriots wide receiver Antonio Brown is not eligible to play here which would have been an incredible spectacle.
Pittsburgh should be a very competitive team this year even without Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell. James Conner did an excellent job as the featured back last season and has the added dimension as a first rate receiving option. Juju Smith-Schuster put up very good numbers last season and former Oklahoma State receiver James Washington could quickly become a threat for opposing defenses. The defense needs to tighten up in the red zone (#17 scoring defense last year) but they’re otherwise solid (#6 total defense last year). The offense was effective and well balanced with the #2 passing offense, #4 total offense and #6 scoring offense a year ago.
During the offseason a recurring question concerned who Tom Brady would throw to now that favored target Rob Gronkowski is retired. That is no longer an issue and all of a sudden the Patriots are loaded at wide receiver with Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas. The Patriots reportedly tried to trade for Brown last year but the Steelers didn’t want him to go to an AFC rival. Assuming Brown takes advantage of this opportunity, that is a nasty group of wide receivers.
Steelers have been a good underdog in recent years (5-2 SU/6-1 ATS L3 years) but haven’t had much success against the Patriots. Pats have won and covered five of the last six meetings and are on a 6-2 SU/5-2-1 ATS run at home. Then again, the Patriots have been solid at home against everyone. They’ve covered 13 of their last 16 games in Foxboro and have gone 24-14 ATS in the last three years. Considering that they’re among the biggest ‘public’ teams in the sport that’s impressive. Also impressive–in their last 57 home games they’re 39-16-2 ATS. They’re also on a 7-0 SU/6-1 ATS run as a home chalk in this price range (3.5 to 7 points). Last year’s win at home was the Steelers’ first victory over New England since 2011.
The Steelers will be a serious contender this season but this week we’ll back the Patriots. Roethlisberger has only won once at Gillette Stadium in his career–that was in 2008 when Tom Brady was sidelined. Against most opponents we’d be all over the Steelers getting +5 but we’ve got to go with the ‘back class’ here and look for New England to continue their domination of Pittsburgh.