PITTSBURGH STEELERS (2-5)
at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (6-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
Line: New England -6, Total: 43.5
Two struggling offenses collide when the Patriots host the Steelers on Sunday.
Pittsburgh has failed to reach 20 points in each of its past three contests while averaging only 297 total YPG in this span. New England QB Tom Brady has had a horrible four-game stretch (52% completion pct., 5.4 YPA, 2 TD, 4 INT), as his team has alternated wins and losses. Brady's offense has been saved by his team's defense that has allowed just 4.9 yards per play this season (6th in NFL). The Steelers' defense has also stood tall recently, allowing just 14.3 PPG and 278 total YPG over the past three contests. But the unit has not been able to figure out Brady, who has a 6-2 record, 276 passing YPG, 16 TD and only 3 INT in his career versus Pittsburgh. However, the Steelers have won two of the past three meetings, including a 33-10 rout in their most recent visit to Foxboro in 2008. They also benefit from the fact that NFL road underdogs off a road loss in November games are 50-18 ATS (74%) over the past 10 seasons. But New England, which is 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) at home this year, usually bounces back strong after a poor passing game, going 23-6 ATS (79%) after failing to surpass 150 passing yards in a game since Bill Belichick took over as head coach.
Can the Patriots stay unbeaten at home with a comfortable win? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. The experts are heating up in NFL Best Bets, combining for a 58% ATS record (43-31-2) over the past five weeks, including 77% ATS (10-3) in Week 8. StatFox Scott is 61% ATS (11-7) in the past four weeks, while StatFox Brian went 3-1 ATS in Week 8, marking his fifth straight week of finishing .500 or better. StatFox Dave was a perfect 3-0 ATS in Week 8, as was StatFox Gary (2-0 ATS), who improved to 63% ATS (10-6-1) in NFL Best Bets over the past five weeks.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is in the midst of his worst season since 2008, based on his 87.2 passer rating. He's thrown for 1,930 yards (276 YPG, 7.4 YPA), but has just 8 TD passes and 11 turnovers (7 INT, 4 lost fumbles). Although he's just 3-4 in his career versus New England, he has still thrown for 1,756 yards (251 YPG), 14 TD and 6 INT in these seven meetings. What has also hurt him this season is a dreadful ground game that averages only 68.7 rushing YPG (3rd-worst in NFL) and 3.3 yards per carry (4th-worst in league). Injuries to virtually every starting offensive lineman have certainly taken its toll. The team has scored a meager 17.9 PPG (5th-worst in NFL) due largely to a horrible red-zone efficiency of just 40% (3rd-worst in league). While the defense has stepped up recently, its lack of big plays has certainly hurt, as Pittsburgh has failed to force a turnover in five of its seven contests this year. However, the team still ranks fourth in the NFL in total defense (303 YPG allowed), fourth in first downs allowed (17.1 per game) and second in passing defense (181 YPG).
Despite the well-chronicled problems of the passing offense for the Patriots (5.5 passing YPA, 2nd-worst in league), they have actually been effective moving the football on the ground with 120.6 rushing YPG on 4.2 YPC, both categories which rank 12th in the NFL. RB Stevan Ridley has rushed for a touchdown in three straight games, averaging 5.0 YPC over this stretch. But New England has not been able to punch the ball in with any consistency, ranking second-to-last in the league in Goal to Go efficiency (46.7%). The loss of RT Sebastian Vollmer (broken leg) last week will certainly hurt too. The good news for QB Tom Brady is that all of his receivers have been healthy all week during practice, and his timing with WR Danny Amendola and TE Rob Gronkowski, who have both missed the majority of the season, should improve. The defense is a battered mess with DT Vince Wilfork (ankle) and LB Jerod Mayo (pectoral) both done for the season, and DT Tommy Kelly (knee), CB Aqib Talib (hip) and CB Kyle Arrington (groin) all questionable to play. But the unit continues to hold strong, especially with its excellent red-zone defense (44%, 5th-best in NFL), which has led to 18.0 PPG allowed (5th-best in NFL). New England is also doing a great job of forcing turnovers, with at least one in every game and 16 total takeaways this season.