As ever it is the Sunday Night Football which closes the show on a busy day of NFL action and this first one of the campaign sees the Super Bowl winners New England Patriots taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers in a heavyweight AFC battle.
The tag line to this match is that over the weekend the Patriots signed the rebel former Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown but sadly for the spectacle they didn’t do it quickly enough for him to play in this one which is a shame.
New England Patriots
Prior to that signing of Brown, there was an element of concern over the New England Patriots this season, given that Rob Gronkowski has retired, but there is a feeling that the Brown signing could be a game changer for Tom Brady and his side. We know the Patriots will find a way of being competitive in the absence of Brown here. It is what they do after all but I suspect they’ll be a different side from next week.
The Patriots might have to rely a little more on their defence to get the job done here, especially as they are up against an attack which is always pretty potent. We know it is the Belichick way to take away the strength of the opposition but even the Patriots might have their work cut out in their attempt to do that in this one.
There have been plenty of off-field issues for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last 12-18 months or so. It began with Le’Veon Bell causing trouble and then Antonio Brown followed suit but having got rid of both of them there is every reason to believe this will be a more harmonious side this season. Whether they remain good enough without two men who would boost any offense remains to be seen, but they have shown they can play without both.
James Conner will need to continue to step up as Bell’s replacement and in his second season he is entitled to find things a little harder, while Juju Smith-Schuster will be the main man in the absence of Brown. Pittsburgh will need their own defence to come to the party here, especially any sort of pass rush that they can muster as if they give Tom Brady time it probably isn’t going to end too well for them I would suggest.
It has been a pretty high scoring Sunday so far in contrast to the opening match of the season on Thursday night, and I expect the points to keep on coming here. These two sides are well known for putting up plenty of points and going well in the red zone and while each of them are missing a huge weapon from last season I still favour the offenses over the defences.
Brady has a wonderful record against Pittsburgh having never lost to them at home and he tends to raise his game against them as well, as you would expect given the quality on the other side. Roethlisberger has a chance to show that all is fine without Brown here and I expect him to do that. The touchdowns line for this match is 5.5 which feels one too low. I’ll take the over.
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