NFL Week 1 Betting – Depleted Steelers Meet New-Look Pats
Zack GarrisonNo comments
After a thoroughly distracting offseason, the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady can’t wait to take the field on Thursday night and get back to doing what they do best: playing football. The defending Super Bowl champs will open the 2015 season as a touchdown favorite over a familiar AFC foe, the Pittsburgh Steelers, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough this Thursday (8:30 PM Eastern).
With the DeflateGate saga finally in the rearview mirror (pending appeal, of course), the Patriots will get to unfurl their Super Bowl 49 banner with their future Hall of Fame quarterback on the field, something that was doubtful for most of the offseason.
This offseason was a rough one for New England beyond DeflateGate, however, and not all of their personnel issues have been ameliorated heading into the season. The offense has been hit hard by injuries with receivers Brandon LaFell out for at least the half of the season (foot) and Julian Edelman nursing an ankle injury; the team also parted ways with RBs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, and will be without starting back LeGarrette Blount due to suspension.
The defense will look starkly different compared to last year, as well, having been decimated in free agency. The biggest losses were starting corners Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, who signed with the Jets and Saints, respectively, and stalwart nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who left for Houston.
The good news for Patriots fans is that Brady has carved up the Steelers throughout his career, posting a 5-2 record against and tossing 18 touchdowns to just three interceptions. The last time they met in 2013, he completed 23 of 33 for four touchdowns TDs and no picks as the Pats destroyed the Steelers, 55-31.
Brady may need another prolific performance on Thursday, facing a Pittsburgh team that finished second in the league in total offense last season. Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for an NFL-best 4,952 yards, along with 32 TDs and just 9 picks.
The Steelers have their own roster issues to start the year, missing starting RB Le’Veon Bell (1,361 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 2014) for the first two games of the season, and dynamic young receiver Martavis Bryant (549 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2014) for the first month due to suspensions.
Roethlisberger will still have WR Antonio Brown to lean on. Brown led the league last season with 1,698 receiving yards while adding 13 TDs. Tight end Heath Miller also figures to see a lot of targets with Bell and Bryant out of the lineup.
Looking at the trends, since 2002, the Patriots have won and covered in seven of ten meetings with the Steelers. New England is also 18-1 straight-up in its last 19 home games. The Steelers have been a solid bet as an underdog, though, going 7-2 ATS in their last nine.
The Patriots should have enough firepower left on either side of the ball to down a depleted Steeler team at home. But laying an entire touchdown is too much against a fellow division winner. When it comes to the spread, take the Steelers and the points.
Pick: Steelers +7.