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Dec 15, 2017
Dec 15, 2017

NFL preview: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

Analysing the Steelers’ stats

Patriots vs. Steelers betting: New England’s motivation

How important is Brady to the Patriots?

NFL preview: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

Two genuine Super Bowl contenders meet in this weekend’s highlight game in the NFL. The New England Patriots travel to Pittsburgh with the top seed in the AFC on the line. The result will have a major impact on the postseason picture, but who will win? Read on for an expert analysis of the Patriots vs. Steelers odds. 

Live Patriots vs. Steelers odds

A regular AFC rivalry continues on Sunday when perennial postseason contenders and Super Bowl winners, New England led by the peerless Tom Brady travel into Heinz Field to take on the similarly successful Pittsburgh Steelers, led by fellow elite passer Ben Roethlisberger.

Brady vs. Roethlisberger

The two franchises have met eleven times since Roethlisberger entered the league in 2004 and it has been a showdown between the two quarterbacks in nine of those eleven contests.

Roethlisberger announced his arrival into the professional ranks in 2004 by breaking Brady and the Patriots’ 21-game winning streak, but New England extracted revenge in the postseason and have held the upper hand ever since.

Pittsburgh’s offence is well above average through the air. Roethlisberger passes for nearly a yard per attempt longer than the defences he has faced usually allow.

A 7-2 record in favour of Brady has been established when the two veterans have met regularly, with the Patriots outscoring their rivals by an average of 33 points per game to 24.

Games between the two powerhouses have been generally high scoring, averaging 56 points. This total is slightly skewed upwards by a 55-31 win for New England in 2013 and the median points total is a less eye-watering 53 points, which is around where the quote currently lies.

Sunday’s match may be just the first meeting of the season between the two teams, with a possible third career postseason meeting awaiting Roethlisberger and Brady in 2018.

Patriots vs. Steelers betting: New England’s motivation

While Pittsburgh secured their postseason place by winning the AFC North with a narrow 39-38 win over divisional rivals Baltimore last week, the Patriots suffered a surprise seven-point loss as 11-point favourites to Miami on Monday night, a result that has thrown the Patriots’ quest for the top AFC seeding into doubt. 

Brady has often struggled against divisional rivals, Miami and a one-game suspension for his go -o tight end Rob Gronkowski and a lengthening injury count perhaps made New England vulnerable in Week 14. 

The Patriots’ quest for the top AFC seeding (and home field advantage throughout the postseason) may have been thrown into doubt, but their destiny is still in their hands. However, their grip has become more tenuous following defeat to the Dolphins.

If Brady and co can win out the final three games beginning in Pittsburgh on Sunday, they will be the number one seed. However, defeat to the Steelers will not only hand the considerable seeding advantage to their opponent, it also opens the door for Jacksonville to take second seed by virtue of a better conference record (depriving Brady’s injured side of a bye week).

Sunday’s game has massive implications for the outright Super Bowl betting and the likelihood of Pittsburgh perhaps having to travel to Foxborough in January or New England making the reciprocal trip to Pittsburgh instead.

Analysing the Steelers’ stats

Pittsburgh’s offence is well above average through the air. Roethlisberger passes for nearly a yard per attempt longer than the defences he has faced usually allow.

His core stats, such as yards per attempt, completion rate and overall rating wouldn’t look out of place in amongst his peak years and he’s still producing a top ten quarterback performance even at this late stage of his career. 

Games between the two powerhouses have been generally high scoring, averaging 56 points - this total is slightly skewed upwards by a 55-31 win for New England in 2013.

Pittsburgh’s running game is slightly below par; they average 3.7 yards per attempt against defences that give up an average of 4 yards per attempt, but overall they are an above average scoring team - they are averaging 24.6 points per game against teams who have allowed only 21.5 ppg. 

There’s nothing extreme in their turnover differential, they have allowed as many takeaways as they themselves have gained. But their points record is of more concern. 

They’ve won seven games narrowly, losing just once by seven points or fewer and their associated Pythagorean win expectation is worth just over eight wins currently compared to the 11 they actually have.

Unlike Brady, Roethlisberger has often been backed up by a top three defensive unit. This season’s version isn’t in the same league as Steelers’ defences of the past, but they are still a top ten unit. They are better against the pass than the run and allow two fewer points per game to be scored than their opponents habitually score. 

How important is Brady to the Patriots?

In keeping with recent New England teams, the Patriots have been reliant upon Tom Brady’s arm this year. He’s throwing for a full yard per attempt further than the average allowed by the defences he’s faced and even with just a par running game, the Patriots are scoring on average nearly six points per game more than their opponents allow, on average.

On defence, the Patriots are again defying the efficiency statistics. They are no better than average against the pass and woefully wasteful against the run, allowing nearly five yards per attempt to opponents who manage just over four. Yet they still only allow 19 points per game against teams who have averaged just over 22.

The whole New England package, orchestrated by Brady and coach Belichick often equates to more than the sum of its parts and their points scoring record alone implies that they are around a full win superior to Pittsburgh over a 16 game regular season. Unlike the Steelers, they haven’t benefitted from an unbalanced share of wins in close matches.

Efficiency stats and the Steelers’ home field advantage suggests it is impossible to split the two teams. The flaws that can appear in the Patriots gameplay might make Pittsburgh and attractive option in the Patriots vs. Steelers odds.

Based on points and Pythagorean wins, the contest is equally close, with the Patriots favoured by a single point. That said, a 3-point handicap in favour of the Steelers could offer potential value.

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