New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5)
Sun. 12/16, 4:25 p.m. ET
Four things you need to know before betting on Patriots-Steelers:
1. Two perennial AFC powerhouses trying to bounce back from brutal losses as heavy favorites meet when the slumping Steelers host the shell-shocked Patriots at Heinz Field on Sunday afternoon. New England lost 34-33 as a nine-point favorite in Miami on Sunday when the Dolphins scored on a 69-yard, multi-lateral touchdown as time expired. The Patriots are 32-16 against the spread under head coach Bill Belichick when coming off an upset loss as a favorite, outscoring opponents by an average margin of more than 10 points over those 48 games. That includes a 15-5 against-the-spread mark when that upset loss has been to a divisional opponent and a 7-0 ATS record when coming off a loss to a divisional opponent as a favorite of six or more points.
2. The Steelers fell for the third straight time on Sunday, dropping a 24-21 decision on the road to a double-digit underdog Oakland team that entered the game with a 2-10 record. Pittsburgh failed to surpass 75 rushing yards for a fourth straight week—the Steelers have averaged a meager 51.5 rushing yards per game while going 0-3-1 against the spread during the stretch. With top running back James Conner sidelined with a foot injury, the Steelers gained only 40 yards on 19 carries against a Raiders team that currently has the second-worst run defense in the NFL, allowing 144.5 yards per game on the ground. Backup RB Jaylen Samuels had one nine-yard gain, and he managed only 19 yards in his other 10 carries. It’s also possible that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who missed nearly half of this past Sunday’s game with injured ribs, won’t be fully healthy.
3. New England has dominated this series in the Tom Brady era, as the future Hall of Fame quarterback has an 11-2 record (10-2-1 against the spread) versus Pittsburgh, a mark that includes a pair of straight-up playoff victories at Heinz Field. Brady has completed 69.4% of his pass attempts over the 13 games he’s played against the Steelers for 3,830 yards, 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Two of those picks occurred in 2004, and Brady went for a stretch of seven full games against Pittsburgh without getting intercepted before the streak ended last December. On the flip side, Ben Roethlisberger has been intercepted in seven straight meetings with the Patriots. During New England's current five-game series win streak (4-0-1 against the spread), the team has won by an average of 12.8 points per game, with last year's 27-24 victory being the only meeting the Pats won by less than a touchdown.
4. While New England's offense is tied for the sixth-fewest giveaways in the NFL (14) with a turnover margin of plus-six, Pittsburgh's defense is tied for the sixth-fewest takeaways in the league (13) with a minus-8 turnover margin. While the Patriots have committed only one turnover over their past six games (an interception versus Minnesota two games ago), the Steelers have a minus-seven turnover margin over their last four contests. Road teams that commit an average of 1.25 or fewer turnovers per game are 20-6 against the spread in the second half of the season since the midway point of 2009 when a) facing a team that forces an average of 1.25 turnovers per game or less and b) coming off four straight games in which they committed fewer than two turnovers.
Pick: New England -2.5
Confidence Level:High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)