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There have been some great games this 2023 NFL season, with some of them being on Thursday Night Football. This Thursday night, however, there will be a matchup between two historic football teams that will be defined as potentially one of the worst games of the year. The New England Patriots (2-10) go on the road to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5), who are suffering from significant injuries.
If the conversation was that the Steelers and the Patriots would be one of the worst games of the week five years ago, it would be a lie. This game, however, has the potential to be the only one of the lowest-scored games of the season, but also mismatched and almost unwatchable. Both teams are said to create a bad matchup. There is significant value in the game in terms of bets.
The Patriots are easily one of the worst teams in the league, which is shocking because Bill Belichick is still coaching the team. They started with a close to losses to Philadelphia and Miami, two legitimate Super Bowl contenders. After accounting for their first win in week three with a 15-10 win at the New York Jets, the Patriots fell hard losing in broad scores to Dallas, New Orleans, and then Las Vegas at their worst. The Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills at home in week seven 29-25, but only by the Bills’ complete collapse. They are coming off a five-game losing streak where the defenses played great, but the offenses played absolutely horrible. New England had already played the worst game of the season last week in a 6-0 loss at home to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Speaking of horrible offenses, the Steelers have been considered one of the least productive offenses in the league due to the horrible coaching and development of offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The Steelers started the season with a 4-3 overall record, with all three of those losses coming to teams projected to make the playoffs. Their biggest low point of the season was in week 11 when the Steelers almost a winnable 13-10 game against an injured Cleveland Browns team on the road. After that game, the Steelers fired Canada as offensive coordinator. Since the firing, Pittsburgh has had a productive game against Cincinnati with the win, but then injuries caused them to lose to Arizona last week with a 24-10 score.
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|New England Patriots
The Patriots come into this game with the worst-scoring offense in the league, averaging only 12.3 points per game. Even with the addition of offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, the development, and consistency from the quarterback groups of Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe is diminished. The Patriots are averaging only 186.8 passing yards per game, 23rd in the league. They have gone back and forth between Jones and Zappe that there isn’t a solid flow of rhythm anymore. It doesn’t help the Patriots do not possess a reliable set of medium-to-deep threat wide receivers.
What is keeping the Steelers' postseason hopes alive is the incredible play of their defense. The Steelers are the 6th ranked scoring defense in the league, allowing an average of 19.1 points per game. Outside linebacker TJ Watt is still playing at an elite level and potentially a lock for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, once again, as he is accounting for 14 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, and 3 forced fumbles. If there is one player that can create the offensive gameplan of the Patriots singlehanded, it will be Watt.
The offense of the Steelers has been slow and methodical for several years due to the philosophy of Canada, who was let go two weeks ago. The Steelers are averaging 16 points per game, which is 28th in the league as their devotion to the short passing game is ruining the potential of quarterback Kenny Pickett and several reliable receivers including George Pickens. Many Steeler fans were questioning if the problem was the second-year quarterback, but in the game against Arizona last week where he was injured, that has shown not to be the situation. Now Pittsburgh is forced to start Mitchell Trubisky, who only threw for 117 yards against the Cardinals last week.
One reason that the Patriots are so bad offensively is that Belichick has been so devoted to building hey high-caliber defense. New England's defense is ranked 15th in the league in points allowed per game (21.2) and eighth in the league in total yards allowed per game (310.5). The Patriots would have a much more efficient defense if they were not put into terrible situations that the offense gives them. This is a defense that is reliable at stopping deep passing place, makes you earn every single yard, and is third in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (88.7). This is the Patriots' only hope in accounting for a win is forcing Pittsburgh to pass the ball.
This game has the potential for Bailey Zappe to have his best passing game with Houston, but only by default. The Patriots are going to be without their star running back in the Rhamondre Stevenson, leaving only Ezekiel Elliott as the main running back in the backfield.
Last week in the Patriots lost to the Chargers, Zappe threw for 141 yards on 13 completions out of 25 attempts. This was a game where New England had Stephenson in the backfield. Without him, however, Zappe may be depended more on passing the ball.
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Easily the best player on the Steelers is star pass rusher T.J. Watt. In 12 games this season, Watt has accounted for 14 sacks and looks to surpass his sack total of 22.5 set in 2021.
The offensive line for the Patriots is not exactly terrible, but they have allowed multiple situations of bad run play and no time for the quarterbacks to progress in the pocket. The offensive line has allowed 30 sacks this season. Watt has the potential to be the difference-maker if the Patriots decide to throw the ball more.
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This game has the potential to be the second lowest-scored game of the season. Pittsburgh and New England are going to rely on the efficiency of their defense to help win the game over their opponents.
It is not going to help that New England’s offense continues to shuffle quarterbacks around and Pittsburgh is coming to the game with serious injuries at key positions.
Pittsburgh has been held to under 20 points scored seven times this season. New England has been held to under 20 points scored ten times this season. The Patriots have averaged 4.3 points per game in their last three games.
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What: New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Where: Acrisure Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When: Thursday, December 7, 8:15 PM E.T.
How to Watch: Amazon Prime
Michael Hanich is a sports journalist/analyst with a wide variety of experience in the newspaper and digital field. He has a love for all sports. The leagues that he covers are College Football, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, College Basketball (men’s and women’s), the MLB, Lacrosse, Volleyball, and the WNBA.More info on Michael Hanich
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