Tom Brady’s stats vs. Pittsburgh since Mike Tomlin took over are as follows: 134/189 1,667 yards, 17TD-0INT, 127.9 QB Rating.
Not 100% sure, but I think that’s pretty good. Unfortunately for, honestly everyone other than the Patriots defensive personnel and coaches, we won’t be seeing the QB duel offensive shoot out we were expecting to see this weekend with Ben Roethlisberger having had knee surgery at the beginning of the week. That being said, this game was really never about the Steelers’ offense, we knew they were going to put up points at home with that weaponry. Inopportunely, without their Pro Bowl signal caller, chances are that it will now be far more difficult for them to hold up their end of the bargain. The spotlight grows even larger on Pittsburgh’s far weaker unit and Achilles heel, the defense, as well as a 2013 4th round QB that we still know very little about: Landry Jones. With very little tangible sample size of note (other than a few underwhelming performances last season), it’s tough to really decipher how good or bad this kid is. What we do know, however, is that the Steelers are armed with arguably both the best running back and receiver in the game, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown respectively (all due respect to David Johnson and Julio Jones). The Patriots defense will still be stressed, it’s a road game in a hectic environment, and Mike Tomlin should throw the kitchen sink at Belichick and co. early and often. This is a big rivalry game, and could very well be a preview of a matchup in the wintertime.
Let’s take it around the table and see what the BBS staff thinks about this AFC showdown at Heinz…
Tom Brady: Over/Under 315 yards passing?
Niko: OVER. You saw the numbers. After giving the rest of the league a four game head start, Brady is now the odds on favorite to win MVP. I don’t see Pittsburgh’s questionable pass defense posing much of a threat in this one.
Pete: OVER. Brady hasn't thrown for under 376 yards in his two games since returning from his four-game suspension. Against a relatively weak Steelers secondary, expect Brady to pick them apart once again.
Jordan: OVER. Like Pete mentioned, Brady hasn't been held to under 376 yards through his two games this year. I honestly don't think the pass defense of Pittsburgh is good enough to halt Brady's hot streak.
LeGarrette Blount: Over/Under 67 yards rushing?
Niko: Since the return of TB, Blount has rushed for 37 and 50 yards respectively. I’m going to go with the UNDER here. Fantasy owners shouldn’t sweat it however; as chances are Blount will still find pay dirt.
Pete: UNDER. Blount does not need to be the leading rusher in the NFL or get 100 yards a game in order to be effective for the Patriots. Blount and his 250+ pound frame is a thing of beauty on the goal line and in garbage time.
Jordan: UNDER. Now that Brady has returned, Blount hasn't been relied on much, if at all. I don't see him having a major impact on this game aside from maybe a two-yard TD run.
James White: Over/Under 44.5 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: On the contrary to Blount, White’s seen an uptick in snaps and production over the last two weeks. In that span he’s rushed for 45 yards on 12 attempts and caught 12 passes for 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. Expect another busy day for White as Brady’s “binky” out of the backfield. OVER.
Pete: Its tough for me to say OVER, but it is also tough for me to doubt James White after two stellar weeks. White doesn't do anything particularly above-average, but he is the perfect type of running back for the Patriots' offensive system. He is a great check-down option for Tom Brady and can occasionally make the first guy miss.
Jordan: Coming off back-to-back strong performances, James White has really stepped up nicely for Dion Lewis as Brady's number one check-down guy. He's been very hot, so ride the hot hand. I'll go with OVER on White.
Julian Edelman: Over/Under 7.5 receptions, 72 yards receiving?
Niko: Jules hasn’t exactly taken off since 12’s return like a lot of us thought he would. I’ll bet that changes Sunday. Pittsburgh’s secondary doesn’t have an answer. OVER on both.
Pete: UNDER. Edelman is right at 30 years young, and, at least to me, it looks as if the Patriots are trying to keep Jules healthy rather than have him play like a fire is lit under his ass. I hope I am wrong, especially with the Steelers' weak secondary and the fact that he is on my fantasy team.
Jordan: I'm going to go with UNDER as well. Agreeing with Pete, it seems as though the Pats want to get him his touches in bunches, rather than abuse the hell out of him in order to have him as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs. He'll get some crucial third down grabs, but that won't be enough to get him over these marks.
Rob Gronkowski: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 75 yards receiving?
Niko: In week 1 of 2015 against Pitt, Gronk had 5 for 94 and 3 touchdowns. Last week, he set a career high with 162 receiving yards. OVER on both. He’s going to put up some monster numbers here on out. Like you needed me to tell you that…
Pete: OVER. Gronkowski looked like a man amongst boys last week, and I truthfully do not see the Steelers having an answer for him. Expect a huge day from Gronk.
Jordan: OVER. He's back, and just getting warmed up. Good luck NFL.
Martellus Bennett: Over/Under 4.5 receptions, 55 yards receiving?
Niko: Someone has to get the short end of the stick when there are 5+ viable receiving options. I’ll go UNDER on catches for Marty, but OVER on yards.
Pete: OVER. Bennett is clearly not 100%, especially after Vontaze Burfict dove at his knees. However, Bennett is a huge benefactor from all of the weapons on offense for the Patriots. If the Patriots effectively run a two-tight end set, then they cannot be beaten.
Jordan: It seems like Marty is often wide open when he gets the ball thrown to him. But with the barrage of weapons that the Patriots have, the touches can be spread out and everyone can feel involved. UNDER on catches, OVER on yards.
Landry Jones: Over/Under 199 yards passing?
Niko: Like mentioned above, we don’t know too much about Landry Jones. What we do know is that he’s throwing to perhaps the most explosive offensive arsenal in football, and that his team will likely be forced to abandon the run earlier than they’d like to. OVER.
Pete: Like Niko mentioned, chances are the Patriots will jump out to an early lead and the Steelers will have to play from behind. Can Landry Jones fill in for Big Ben and be effective? Probably not, but he is also throwing to one of the best offenses in all of football. OVER.
Jordan: Landry Jones isn't a household name, obviously. But come on, he's got Antonio Brown to throw to. And, like Pete said, the Patriots offense will force the Steelers to throw more. OVER.
Le’Veon Bell: Over/Under 145.5 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: Bell, who went through a suspension of his own (three games) has averaged 88 yards on the ground and 59 through the air since his return. Although the Pats will look to take the run away and Bell may have difficulty getting going between the tackles, he’ll make up for it in check downs and screens. Expect high percentage throws to ease Jones in and make him comfortable. OVER.
Pete: The Patriots are notorious for taking away the opposing team's top offensive weapon. For Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick, they will have to decide if that player is Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown. In my opinion, and I am nothing but a smut blogger, the Patriots should let Le'Veon Bell go off and focus on Antonio Brown. Let the running back catch the check-down pass all he wants and gain three yards. Let the Steelers run the ball two straight times to set up a third-and-five. Running backs cannot beat you. OVER.
Jordan: Power backs have given the Patriots fits so far, and not only is Bell that, but he is pretty damn fast as well. He's also one of, if not the best two-way back in the league. I can see him making a few big plays in both the passing and running game. OVER.
Antonio Brown: Over/Under 7.5 receptions, 89 yards receiving?
Niko: If Ben were at QB, these lines would be even higher. With Jones at the helm, I don’t think Butler will be as tested and pressed as he was last year in week 1, when Brown got the best of him in a tough back and forth all night. I’ll roll with slightly UNDER on both of these, but I still expect AB to be involved.
Pete: UNDER. Read above.
Jordan: It going to be close, but the lack of Big Ben is going to lead to Brown going UNDER on both.
Sammie Coates: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 61 yards receiving?
Niko: UNDER on both. Coates was a nonfactor last weekend (0 catches), and is still recovering from an injury to his hand. His production will be heavily affected without Roethlisberger.
Pete: Absolutely agree with Niko. Sammie Coates is nothing to write home about, and he will greatly feel the absence of Big Ben. UNDER.
Jordan: It's most likely that the Pats will match up Logan Ryan against Coates. So far this year, teams are picking him apart. Coates, in my opinion, could be the leading receiver on Sunday. I'll go with OVER on both.
Jesse James: Over/Under 3.5 receptions, 32 yards receiving?
Niko: With offseason addition Ladarius Green potentially returning this week, but likely being eased in, James should continue to receive the majority of the snaps. He won’t put up gaudy numbers, but tight ends have had a fair share of success thus far against this Pats’ D. I’ll cautiously go OVER on both for the 6’7 former Penn State Nittany Lion.
Pete: In my opinion, the production of Jesse James solely depends on the availability of Jamie Collins. Collins has a unique blend of size and speed that gives him the ability to cover tight ends. Now, Collins has struggled mightily in coverage at times since being drafted into the NFL, but his sheer strength will keep James in check. UNDER.
Jordan: Quite frankly, I don't really know who this guy is. But given the success of TEs against New England this year, I'll go with OVER on both, but not nearly enough to scare you.
Niko: Malcolm Butler vs. Antonio Brown→ I still remember last season during week 1 thinking, “wow, did he really catch that? Butler was right on him!” Play after play, series after series. Round 2 this Sunday in this game within the game. Can’t wait.
Pete: Steelers Secondary vs. Patriots Receivers. While the Steelers upgraded their front-seven, their secondary still SUCKS. Brady will pick them apart, per usual.
Jordan: Logan Ryan vs. Sammie Coates. Like I mentioned above, Logan Ryan has been picked apart this year and he NEEDS to figure it out soon.
Niko: Pats put up 40 for the first time season. This is far from the vaunted Steelers’ defenses in the past, and if the defense can force a turnover or two against young Landy, this number is certainly not out of reach.
Pete: Martellus Bennett is going to go off. The Steelers will be watching all of the game tape on Gronkowski from last week and leave Bennett wide-open. I say he snags two touchdowns and seven receptions for 100 yards.
Jordan: Defense gets the scoring started early. Pats get a pick-six off the backup, Landry Jones, and get the lead before TB12 even takes a snap. I'll predict it's Jamie Collins.
Game Total: Over/Under 45.5 points?
Niko: OVER. Even without Big Ben, these Steelers are too talented offensively to not put something up. Plus, we all know what this Pats offense is capable of.
Pete: OVER. The Patriots may threaten just themselves, per usual. Both teams don't have particularly strong defenses, contrary to where the Patriots stack up in the NFL in points per game.
Jordan: OVER. Both teams offenses are just too lethal, even with the absence of Roethlisberger, to not put up a fair share of points.
Final Prediction: (Patriots -7)
Niko: Patriots 40 Steelers 17. As alluded to above, I have a funny feeling this isn’t the only time these to teams will square off, only next time the loser is staying home.
Pete: 35-24 Patriots. It won't be a blow out, but this game will never feel close.
Jordan: I'll agree with Pete here, I see it being around a 35-24 Pats win with a garbage time Pittsburgh TD to keep it respectable.