NFL Parlay Week 1: Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots
Reigning Super Bowl champions New England Patriots will start their title defense in Foxboro against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. The two teams’ quarterbacks have a combined age of 79, but no one’s calling either Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger washed up. Both signal-callers will be steering high-powered offenses, but in this potential preview of the AFC Championship Game, who will light up the loudest fireworks? Nitrogen Sports Blog takes a look at this battle of AFC powers.
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Steelers vs Patriots Week 1 game preview
When: Sunday, September 8, 2019, 8:20 PM ET
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro
NFL Odds: Pittsburgh Steelers (+6) vs. New England Patriots (-6)
What to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0)
There’s a freshness in the air in Pittsburgh right now, and the Steelers can thank the permanent departures of two of the most toxic players in the franchise’s history for that. With running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown gone, the Steelers’ offense will be entering a new territory — but guided by the same quarterback in the form of Ben Roethlisberger and with talented successors of Bell and Brown.
Steelers running back James Conner had a breakout season a year ago, while JuJu Smith-Schuster is now the unquestioned No. 1 option in the Steelers’ passing attack that averaged second last year in passing yards per game (313.0). Conner, however, was not around when the Steelers defeated New England at Heinz Field last year, 17-10, due to an ankle injury, so this will be the first time the Patriots’ defense will get a look at him.
Schuster is not the only potent target for Big Ben, as he’ll be joined by James Washington and offseason acquisition Donte Moncrief. Roethlisberger passed for 235 yards (22/34) with two touchdowns against two interceptions in the win over the Pats. All things considered and assuming Roethlisberger is healthy, the Steelers’ offense should be able to dent the Patriots’ stop unit. It’s a big plus for the Steelers also that the Patriots will be missing safety Patrick Chung, who is dealing with drug-possession charges.
As for their defense, the Steelers appear stacked with rookie Devin Bush joining T.J Watt and Bud Dupree in the same group that limited New England to just 18 first-down conversions in the last meeting.
What to know about the New England Patriots (0-0)
The Patriots will also come into the 2019 NFL season with some changes on their roster. The most notable of which is the absence of Rob Gronkowski, who now has all the time in the world to party after hanging up his cleats for good. The Steelers are certainly happy with Gronk’s retirement, as their defense was known to suffer repeated torture at the hands of the hulking tight end. The Pats’ TE slot is slim right now, though, as Lance Kendricks is suspended for one game and Ben Watson four.
The good news for the Pats is that they have wide receiver Josh Gordon back. Gordon is a game-changer when he’s on the field. He’s a dangerous weapon for Brady, who will have to throw the ball more at the wideout’s direction than in last year’s loss to the Steelers in which Gordon was targeted just twice and caught one pass for 19 yards.
Brady is Brady and the Patriots’ system has always found a way to give their quarterback ample talents downfield. This season, the Patriots are hoping for rookie N’Keal Harry to step up, though, his status for the Steelers game is up in the air due to lower-body injuries.
If he can’t give it a go, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas, and Julian Edelman will cover the void. Edeloman had 90 receiving yards on seven catches in the aforementioned 2018 loss to Pittsburgh. Although Chung is out, Duron Harmon will be an imposing presence for Roethlisberger, who was intercepted twice last year by the safety.
Fantasy Football spin
- Vance McDonald is a favorite breakout player in fantasy football heading into the season. With Antonio Brown leaving behind 168 targets and Jesse James’ departure adding 30 more, there should be a feasting frenzy for those targets among players left behind in the Steelers’ receiving corps. McDonald is now the clear No. 1 tight end option in an offense that topped the NFL in 2018 with 43.1 passes per game.
- We get it. Owning Josh Gordon is an adventure, but his talent is undeniable. Every time you get terrified by the prospect of having Gordon on your team, just think that Brady needs a tremendous playmaker downfield with Gronk gone, and no one on the Pats’ roster is at the same talent level as a healthy Josh Gordon.
- The Steelers have covered the spread in five of their last five games.
- The Patriots are 3-1 ATS in their last four games against Pittsburgh.
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