The best two teams in the AFC square off this weekend in Pittsburgh, for what has been consistently one of the best matchups over the past couple decades. Or at least on paper. Tom Brady is 10-2 vs the Steelers over his career. The Patriots have also won the last 4 times these teams have met up. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have lit up the Steelers, hooking up for 8 TD’s in five games. Not so intimidating when you look inside the numbers.
Getting Gronk back against the team he has a knack to score against is huge. He’s due for 2 more TD’s this week. Brady needs a bounce back game, and the running backs have still been hitting on all cylinders. The wide receivers struggled mightily last week, and Chris Hogan had a huge game against the Steelers in the AFC Championship, so he should see his number get called more often. The Pats need to get back to basics. This is the second time this year they have forced the ball vertical all game, and it resulted in a loss. When it’s not working, a West Coast style offense has always worked well for Brady. This Steelers run D has been mean this year, so beating them through the air will be the key to winning this week.
When the Pats are on D is when this game gets fun. Le’Veon Bell has struggled heavily against this Patriots defense, for somewhat unknown reasons. Granted he got hurt in the AFC Championship, but he has never scored against New England. With a weakened run D, it will be interesting to see how his game plays out this week. The matchup everyone loves is Malcolm Butler and Antonio Brown. I especially love it because it is not a malicious, or dirty rivalry these two have. Just a couple of real competitive guys who are constantly going back and forth making plays on each other. If they could keep a camera on these two all game long and just watch how they compete, I wouldn’t be opposed to watching that. Big Ben seems to always end up making some sort of mistake against the Patriots, but there are new weapons to be aware of. Juju Smith-Schuster has made his case to possibly be rookie of the year, and Martavis Bryant, who was suspended all of last season, both could be difference makers if Brown isn’t. The secondary has been phenomenal in the second half of the season, and they will be put to the test this Sunday.
These teams really are unpredictable when they meet up. But the Patriots coming off a tough loss, and Mike Tomlin throwing a little shade at the Pats this week should add up to plenty of motivation to keep the foot on the gas for all 4 quarters, with no let up. Patriots 38-30.
Written By: Jake Kobierski (@TheRealKobe83)