The 9-4 New England Patriots were shocked by the Miami Dolphins in Week 14, defeated by a single point gained from the miraculous 69-yard double-lateral touchdown pass with just six seconds to go in the game, final score 33-34.
Hard to believe Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the loser in that one after throwing for 358 yards, 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
New England is coming off a road loss and is only 3-4 on the road and theyre 6-3 against AFC opponents, but for whatever reasons they cant seem to lose to the Steelers, so theyre slightly favored in this one.
After an impressive six-game winning streak that started in Week 5, the 7-5-1 Pittsburgh Steelers have lost three in a row, their latest in Week 14 by a field goal, 21-24, at the weak hands of the struggling Oakland Raiders, who up to that point had only managed two wins.
Steelers veteran Pro-Bowl quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had to leave that game in the first half due to a rib injury, and though he was ready to return in the third quarter, head coach Mike Tomlin inexplicably kept him on the sidelines.
Pittsburgh is entirely beatable at home theyre 3-3 at Heinz Field and theyre just 4-5-1 against AFC teams, so its no wonder that despite playing in front of their own fans theyre still expected to lose this matchup.
These two teams have met 31 times (including 5 postseason games), with Pittsburgh winning 15 games and New England winning 16 games. The Patriots have won the last five matchups, the most recent one being in December last season, the Patriots winning 27-24.
If the Patriots win this matchup, their record will be 10-4 and if the Miami Dolphins also lose to the Minnesota Vikings the Patriots will clinch the AFC East and be guaranteed the AFCs second seed in the playoffs.
But if the Steelers come out on top, theyll be 8-5-1, still at least a half game ahead of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North, but still not assured a spot in the playoffs.
Whos favored to win this Week 15 Patriots-Steelers matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which teams quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
Were going to compare the Patriots and the Steelers and attempt to answer those questions and more.
Brady and his offense score an average of 28 points and move the ball a total of 397.1 yards per game, their passing attack ranked 7th in the league and their rushing game ranked 16th.
Against the Dolphins, heavily braced tight end Rob Gronkowski was the leading receiver with 8 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, averaging 13.4 yards per reception.
Patriots deep threat Josh Gordon also came alive in the defeat by the Dolphins with 5 receptions for 96 yards, pulling defenses down field and opening up midfield for slot receiver Julian Edelman, who had 9 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown in that game.
In the ten games hes played, rookie running back Sony Michel has run the ball 164 times for 706 yards and 5 touchdowns while catching 7 balls for another 50 yards.
Running back James White has been an effective dual threat from the backfield, already having caught 76 balls for 674 yards and 6 touchdowns while running 80 times for 342 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Currently there are no Patriots offensive players listed as injured.
This season, Roethlisberger has at times played as if hes ready to retire, while most of the other times hes looked as good as ever, throwing 4,227 yards and 28 touchdowns with 13 interceptions, second only to Kansas Citys Patrick Mahomes.
Despite his sore ribs, chances are Roethlisberger will play in Week 15, this a must win for a team with all the offensive tools Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, Ryan Switzer, Jesse James, James Conner but who in the last three weeks seem to have forgotten how to win.
One thing the Steelers know how to do is put the ball into the end zone, averaging 28.2 points per game and ranked number one in the red zone scoring touchdowns 77.50 percent of the time.
With all that was said about how second-year running back James Conner did a decent job of filling the gap left by holdout LeVeon Bell, the Steelers run game is one of the worst in the league, only averaging 89.0 yards on the ground per game.
Conner is doing his part hes run and caught the ball for 253 touches, 1,376 yards and 13 touchdowns, 909 of those yards gained on the ground, but with an injured ankle (see below) his ability to make quick cuts will be limited.
To compare, at the end of last season, Bell only had 11 touchdowns.
Listed as questionable for Week 15: running back James Conner (ankle), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ribs) and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (knee).
New Englands defense allows opponents to score 22.5 points and gain 372.5 total yards per game with a rushing defense ranked 15th and a passing defense ranked 23rd.
The Patriots are tied for fifth most interceptions (14) but their 24 team sacks ranks T-29th in a league of 32.
Middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been active with 83 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Defensive end Trey Flowers has the most sacks on the team with 6.5 (two of those against the Dolphins in Week 14), along with 16 quarterback hits, 44 tackles, 2 passes defended and 2 forced fumbles.
The Patriots secondary is made better by defensive back Jonathan Jones, who has 3 interceptions, 7 passes defended, 45 combined tackles and half a sack.
Currently there are no Patriots defensive players listed as injured.
The Steelers defense allows whomever they play to score 23.5 points per game (which is more than the Patriots do) while opponents only average 330.8 total yards per game.
Pittsburghs run defense is ranked 6th, while their passing defense is ranked 12th, with only 6 interceptions (T-28th) but 45 sacks, which is currently the most in the league.
The Steelers can sack the ball, led by outside linebacker T.J. Watt with 10 sacks, nose tackle Javon Hargrove has 6.5 and defensive end Cameron Heyward has 6.0.
Pittsburghs secondary has only accumulated 6 interceptions, and outside linebacker Bud Dupree, strong safety Terrell Edmunds and cornerback Joe Haden have one apiece.
Listed as questionable for Week 15: safety Sean Davis (knee).
New Englands punter, Ryan Allen, has been a Patriot all six of his NFL years and has punted 49 times for a net average of 38.9 yards per punt, ranked 27th in the NFL.
Pittsburghs punter, Jordan Berry, is in his fourth year and has been a Steeler his whole career.
So far, Berrys punted 54 times for a net average of 38.9 yards per punt, ranked 27th in the league.
New Englands veteran placekicker, Stephen Gostkowski, who has spent all 13 of his NFL seasons as a Patriot, is 24-for-29, his longest was a 52-yarder.
Gostkowski has missed one extra point attempt (40/41), which happened in Week 14 in the first quarter of the teams one-point loss to the Dolphins, followed by a missed field goal later in the game.
Pittsburgh placekicker, Chris Boswell, in his fourth year, has only ever been a Steeler in the NFL and so far hes 10-for-16, his longest a 50-yarder.
Boswell has missed 5 extra point attempts (39/44).
New Englands punt returner, wide receiver Julian Edelman, is ranked 46th in the league in return average.
Edelman has returned 14 punts for 89 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.4 yards per return, his longest was for 23 yards.
Pittsburghs punt returner, wide receiver Ryan Switzer, was All-Rookie last season and is currently ranked 26th in the league in return average.
Switzer has returned 27 punts for 232 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 8.6 yards per return, his longest for 23 yards.
The oddsmakers have the Patriots favored over the Steelers by 2.5 with an over/under of 52.5.
CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:
Pete Prisco goes with the over and has it Patriots 31, Steelers 232
John Breech takes the over and predicts it Patriots 30, Steelers 23
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Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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