Time: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Gillette Stadium
The Dallas Cowboys are supposedly America’s team, and then you have the New England Patriots, the team America loves to hate. With the signing of Antonio Brown yesterday, that hate around has intensified and look for it to ratchet up even more in coming weeks. Let’s take a look at this great matchup on Sunday night!
New England is 11-4 overall against Pittsburgh during the Brady/Bill Belichick era and 5-1 at home, but the Steelers took the most recent meeting, winning 17-10 at Heinz Field last December to snap a five-game losing streak in the series. This will be the sixth encounter between the Patriots and Steelers since the start of the 2015 season. What has made this a rivalry is the simple fact that over the last 20 years or so these teams have played multiple meaningful games in the regular season and in the playoffs. The Patriots will unveil their Super Bowl LIII banner in a pregame ceremony Sunday night and will wear commemorative championship patches during the game. I am sure the Steelers will love that and would like nothing more than to spoil the party.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring), tight end Matt LaCosse (ankle) and safety Obi Melifonwu (ankle) are listed as questionable for New England. Wideout Julian Edelman is in the clear after appearing to do some damage to his thumb during last week’s preseason finale. He was a full participant in practice this week and has not been listed on the injury report. Safety Sean Davis (ankles) is doubtful for Pittsburgh.
J.C. Jackson, Patriots, cornerback – Jackson did make Smith-Schuster look rather pedestrian when these teams met last season (4 catches, 10 targets, 40 yards, no touchdowns). The big question is can he do it again? An even bigger question could be with Antonio Brown gone and Smith-Schuster looking like the number one guy, will Jackson even be the player defending him? If not this could be switched to Stephon Gilmore, leaving Jackson, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones to handle some combination of Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, and Ryan Switzer. No matter who defends who, if the Patriots secondary plays well this game will be a wrap.
Isaiah Wynn, Patriots, left tackle – The Steelers have one of the top pass-rushing defenses in the NFL. Wynn is most important to me because this will be his first NFL game and it’s a wonder whether he can adjust smoothly to the speed of the pro game? If he can’t it could be a long night for Mr.Brady.
James Conner, Steelers, running back – This will be the first time the Patriots have seen Conner up close and personal as Conner did not play in last year’s Steelers win. It is imperative that the Steelers have a big day running.
Result: I think the Patriots have the better head coach/quarterback combination in this game. The biggest key for the Steelers is to pressure Brady nonstop. If they can do that they have a chance.
In the end, I think the Steelers pressure Brady enough to keep him uncomfortable in the first half. In the second half, Brady makes necessary adjustments and the Patriots slowly pull away.
Patriots 27 Steelers 17
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