Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
#3 Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) at #1 New England Patriots (14-2)
New England (-6) via Top Bet
Foxborough, Massachusetts (Gillette Stadium)
January 22th, 3:40 PM (PST)
How each team got to this point:
- 11-5 regular season and AFC North Champions
- Defeated the Miami Dolphins (10-6) 30-12 in the Wild Card Round
- Defeated the Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) 18-16 in the Divisional Round
New England Patriots
- 14-2 regular season and AFC East Champions
- Clinched first round bye and home field throughout the playoffs
- Defeated the Houston Texans (9-7) 34-16 in the Divisional Round
- New England beat Pittsburgh 27-16 during Week 7 in Pittsburgh
- The game does not matter a ton for Sunday’s game because Pittsburgh had to play this game without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
- Here are the highlights from the Week 7 matchup
Somehow, some way, the New England Patriots find a way to be playing deep into January. At the beginning of the year people thought: There is no way Brady can have a good season at the age of 39, the 4 game suspension is going to catch up with New England, and there isn’t enough talent around Brady to win. Yet, what did do New England do? Tom Brady had a historic season throwing 28 TD to just 2 INT (an all-time NFL record). The Patriots went 3-1 without Brady and finished the season 14-2 with the best record in the NFL. Their defense full of no names finished 1st in the NFL in scoring by only giving up 15.6 points per game, and their offense finished 3rd in the NFL scoring 27.6 points per game.
“[Tom Brady] and Belichick have molded one of the most successful dynasties in professional sports history.”
The New England Patriots are now headed to their 6th straight conference title game, an NFL record. They have the best coach in the NFL, maybe even NFL history (click on the link to read: Is Bill Belichick the Greatest Coach of All Time?), and the best quarterback in the NFL. Yes, people want to point to Aaron Rodgers. He is having an incredible stretch, but don’t forget how everyone felt when he was 4-6. Brady is the model of consistency and him and Belichick have molded one of the most successful dynasties in professional sports history.
On to Sunday’s football game. The Steelers come in boasting one of the best offensives in the entire NFL. The offense is extremely difficult to stop because of the multitude of weapons from the dangerous trio of Big Ben, Le’veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. Not to mention, Bell is also very diverse himself. Despite missing 4 games due to suspension, he has ran for 1,268 yards (105.7 yards per game) and caught 616 yards out of the backfield (51.3 yards per game).
The Steelers have the firepower and the experience to go toe to toe with the top rated Patriots offense. Watch Antonio Brown look to have a monster day, despite his recent negligence on Facebook live. I expect him to handle the situation differently than Odell Beckham and actually play better because of the incident rather than play worse.
Tom Brady against Mike Tomlin’s defense has thrown 19 TD to just 0 INT, completed 71.2 % of his passes, and has thrown for 314.6 yards per game in just the 6 games. He has had a good history against Tomlin and that bodes well against the Steelers who do not have a vaunted defense like they have had in past seasons.
Obviously, both offenses are elite, but the game will be won on the defensive side of the football. The Steelers defense is not as good as past years, but is still a pretty good defense. Tomlin and James Harrison will have them inspired to play good and mean football. Their front 7 is good enough to beat up on New England, but the defense is suspect in the back end and can be exploited for big passing plays.
For New England, their talent doesn’t resemble the number 1 defense that they are. It is amazing every week how well they come to play because Belichick gets rid of what seems to be one of their best defenders every season, yet their defense is elite. No matter what, Bill Belichick will have his defense stout and ready to play.
#21 Malcolm Butler, Now a Leader of this Top Ranked Patriots Defense, Makes the Game Winning Interception in the 2015 Super Bowl (The Associated Press)
There is not much to separate these two teams. However, it is never smart betting against Brady and Belichick at home. Furthermore, I like New England’s defense more than Pittsburgh’s. New England’s defense has allowed just 11.5 points and 273 yards per game in their last 6 games. New England has been consistently elite for the entire year and I expect them to do the same on Sunday, which gives them the slight edge over Pittsburgh.
In the end, I think New England is going to win a very tight game. However, if Big Ben has a chance late to win the game, I would expect him to drive his team down the field and score a game winning TD, but in all likelihood, the New England defense will never give an opportunity for Big Ben to even have that shot.
New England 27 Pittsburgh 23
Ryan is currently a student at the University of North Carolina. He grew up in the Bay Area and has had Raiders season tickets his entire life fostering his love for the NFL. He has founded his own sports website, thejrreport.com and works at the Sports Desk for the Daily Tar Heel. You can follow Ryan on twitter @rytime98 if you want to discuss anything sports.