The New England Patriots take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the pick of this week’s NFL fixtures. Who will emerge victorious from this eagerly anticipated fixture between two of the top teams in the NFL? Looking for value in the NFL Week 15 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 15 predictions.
Be it in the regular or post season, a meeting between the AFC heavyweights, the Patriots and the Steelers is always eagerly anticipated and ripe with Super Bowl implications.
The x’s and y’s are now appearing as annotations to the weekly standings, denoting respectively that a playoff spot and a divisional title has been clinched. But, only Kansas, LA Rams and New Orleans can be certain of football in January after week 14.
It will be an upset of epic proportions, if the Patriots aren’t also part of the post season.
Although they did succumb to an extreme event in week 14, losing to the Dolphins on a final, hugely unlikely, 70-yard play, complete with laterals.
The Patriots are still virtually certain to make the post season and win their division, but they’ve allowed Kansas to tighten their grip on the number one seeding and opened the door for Houston, who they only lead on head to head records, to cast New England into a home wildcard tie and thus denying them a bye week.
Pittsburgh are the AFC’s current number four seed and their immediate concern is simply to retain a position in the post season race, with their current 7-5-1 record affording them little hope of advancing their seeding.
The Steelers are slightly better than a coin toss to win the AFC North, they lead Baltimore by half a win.
They are on a three game losing streak, solely against the AFC West and with the western division all but guaranteed two playoff slots, failure to top their division will send the Steelers into a multi team scrap for the final wildcard slot.
On a more positive note, four of their five losses were by a touchdown or fewer points and they also opened the campaign with a rare overtime tie.
The battle of the Quarterbacks
There seems little doubt that five years after either Roethlisberger or Brady finally step away from the NFL, both will become first ballot Hall of Famers and statistically, their careers have reflected a durability and excellence in a fruitful era for passing teams.
After injury concerns during the week, Roethlisberger should be fit for the clash on Sunday.
Prior to this season, both had completion rates in the mid 60%’s, averaged just over 7.5 yards per attempt, a touchdown pass on over 5% of passes and had been sacked on fewer than 7% of drop backs for Roethlisberger and 5% for Brady.
The trendlines for these metrics have remained steadfast or even marginally trended upwards for completion rates over both careers.
The only noticeable deviation is the fall in sack rates for Roethlisberger, an indication of his willingness to take a hit earlier in his career, but a move to a more prudent approach in the latter years and a greater risk of season or game ending injuries.
It will be an upset of epic proportions, if the Patriots aren’t also part of the post season
He was forced to sit out part of the Steelers’ surprise defeat to struggling Oakland on Sunday.
It is just as difficult to separate the two based on 2018’s regular season.
Both quarterbacks are throwing for about 10% further yardage per attempt than the defences they have faced have allowed, on average. Neither is reliant on a dominant running game, both New England’s and Pittsburgh’s carry the ball for 0.4 fewer yards per carry than is par for the defences faced.
What do the statistics suggest?
Overall, there’s even less to split the offences. Pittsburgh has scored three more points than New England, but the latter has faced defences that have proved slightly more proficient at restriction opposition scoring rates.
So, with a near parity of offensive ability, Sunday’s contest may be decided by the lower profile defences and more mundane factors, such as home field advantage.
Statistically, Pittsburgh is the clear winner on the defensive side of the ball.
They restrict both the opposing aerial and ground offence to half a yard per attempt less than they usually achieve, compared to the Patriots, who are merely average against the pass and poor against the run.
However, the Steelers’ don’t wholly reap the benefit of their defensive strengths. They barely knock one point per game off the usual scoring rates of the teams they have faced and that’s a figure that is very nearly matched by the Patriots’ less celebrated defensive unit.
Where is the value?
We should get to slightly above average performances from the passing offences, with Pittsburgh’s ground game aiding their cause with a favourable matchup against New England’s run defence.
A points based approach fails to make Pittsburgh more than a couple of points superior to the Patriots once home field is factored into the game, while an assessment based purely on passing and running efficiencies are slightly more bullish in favour of the hosts.
Roethlisberger is an injury doubt following a bruised rib in his partially absence from the week 14 defeat to the Raiders.
His presence would make Pittsburgh the narrow selection, but if the hosts are to rely on back up, Josh Dobbs, the Pats would likely be around double digit favourites.
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