The hated New England Patriots are heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers on Sunday Night Football. The pivotal mid-season AFC matchup pits two 6-2 teams tied for the best record in the NFL. SB Nation's odds partner, Odds Shark, has Pittsburgh as 4.5-point favorites, with the O/U set at 45 points. BoDog has the Steelers favored by 5 points.â†µ
Despite the fact that the Steelers will be without Max Starks, their starting left tackle who was placed on Injured Reserve on Wednesday after injuring his neck on Monday night, I like this particular matchup for the Steelers. The Patriots are rushing the passer with their front-four better than last year, but they're still not what I'd consider one of the better teams in the league at pressuring the quarterback. That may just mean that the Steelers' patchwork offensive line will be able to hold up sufficiently for Ben Roethlisberger and the offense to operate.â†µ
The Steelers will also be returning to Heinz Field for the first time in a month. Mike Tomlin and his squad just completed a three-game road swing against the Dolphins, Saints and Bengals, and you've got to assume that Steeler Nation will be out in full force on Sunday night to cheer on their beloved Steelers.â†µ
Defensively, Pittsburgh is likely feeling good about itself after preserving the victory in the final minute on Monday night. It's been awhile since Dick LeBeau's group has come up with that big stop in the fourth quarter to stave off a rally, and the defense in particular will be able to feed off the crowd noise at home. I wouldn't be surprised to see them turn in a performance like the one they had against the Patriots in 2008. The Patriots mustered only 267 yards of offense, and the Steelers defense created five turnovers en route to a 33-10 thrashing.â†µ
The Steelers are 5-3 against the spread this season; the Patriots are 4-3-1.