Patriots vs. Steelers is Must-Watch Sunday Stuff





What the heck …

The National Football League really has not had a “Game of the Year” in 2017 and so Sunday’s much-hyped/super-ballyhooed New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers showdown at Heinz Field sure fits the bill.


We’ll delve into the game preview of Pats/Steelers in just a moment but first this reminder …


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And get all the daily/nightly College Basketball and NBA Winners too! There’s plenty of holiday hoops winners that will continue to fill your stocking.



On Sunday, it’s …

NEW ENGLAND (10-3) at PITTSBURGH (11-2) – 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS

Let’s get right to the nuts-and-bolts of this matchup that has the football world in an absolute tizzy …

The Patriots have “owned” this rivalry in recent years – note that New England has won 10 of the 13 head-to-head matchups played ever since Bill Belichick became the head coach for this AFC East squad – and much of the NE success is because QB Tom Brady (3,865 yards passing with 27 TDs and 6 INTs) has been able to spread the field and pick/choose his open receivers. Now, with TE Rob Gronkowski back after a one-game suspension, the Steelers’ task of trying to reign in Brady and his talented targets gets that much more difficult: Expect Gronk to get 8-to-10 passes thrown his way here and that might open up downfield for some deep balls to WR Brandin Cooks.

On the flip side, the Steelers – who’ve won their last eight games in a row with many thanks to second-half comebacks – not only need another herculean effort from QB Ben Roethlisberger (506 yards passing last week in that wild 39-38 non-cover win against Baltimore) but Pittsburgh must play keep-away from Brady, so RB Le’Veon Bell figures to be kept busy and might even get 30-plus touches here. Reduce Brady’s opportunities to beat the Steelers and maybe then he won’t beat ‘em for a fifth time in the last six tries since 2010. No doubt the Steelers will be playing uber-hard for injured LB Ryan Shazier but the cold/hard fact is the Pittsburgh defense really misses his speed and on-field presence, so gut feeling is that Mike Tomlin’s team will blitz Brady more than usual here and hope this wobbly LB corps doesn’t get exposed in the open field.

The Pats are a rock-steady 3-point betting favorite for this clash – would it have been ever more if New England didn’t get smeared last Monday Night in Miami?

Spread Stats – New England is 8-5 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and the Patriots are 5-2-1 vig-wise against Pittsburgh the past 10 years including last year’s 36-17 win/cover as 5.5-point home favorites in the AFC Championship Game. Note the Steelers are 6-7 against the odds this year and a composite 8-4-3 ATS as point-grabbers since late 2014.


In other NFL Week 15 Sunday games, it’s …

GREEN BAY (7-6) at CAROLINA 9-4) – 1 p.m. ET, Fox

The return of Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers – out since the first half of a Week 6 loss in Minnesota – is the headline here but what about the fact the Panthers have averaged 33 points per game the past four weeks with RB Jonathan Stewart (three TDs last Sunday) showing major pep in his step.

Spread Stats – Carolina has covered five of its last six games this year; Green Bay’s on a three-game ATS winning streak coming into this tilt and overall the Packers went a decent 4-3 ATS with QB Brett Hundley at the helm.


LOS ANGELES RAMS (9-4) at SEATTLE (8-5) – 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox

Among the storylines here for this NFC West bash is the fact the league’s oldest coach (Seattle’s Pete Carroll) and the youngest coach (LA’s Sean McVay) are banging heads for a second time – the Seahawks and Carroll nabbed a 16-10 win in Hollywood back in Week 5 – and here the challenge for the young Rams is keeping a grip on QB Russell Wilson who aired two long-distance TD strikes last week. The Rams, meanwhile, have some injury concerns in their secondary plus springing RB Todd Gurley on the ‘Hawks 20-plus times here might not work as well as it’s worked against lesser NFL defenses.

Spread Stats – Seattle has covered eight of its last 10 home games against the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams; on the flip side, the Rams are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games this year.



On Sunday Night, it’s …

DALLAS (7-6) at OAKLAND (6-7) – 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Don’t look now but the born-again Cowboys have some hope for the post-season, after all. Last week’s 30-10 win/cover at the 3.5-point underdog New York Giants featured QB Dak Prescott’s best passing game of this here-and-now 2017 season (see 332 yards passing with 3 / 0 INTs) and propelled the ‘Boys back into the mix --- if Prescott can evade DL Khalil Mack and friends here, then “Jerry’s World” really could be rocking on Christmas Eve when Seattle storms into the Lone Star State … we said if!

Spread Stats – Dallas is 6-3-1 vig-wise in its last 10 games against AFC competition; Oakland is 4-8-1 ATS overall this year including four spread setbacks in six tries as underdog sides.


NOTE: Catch more College Bowl coverage in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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