NFL Week 14 Thursday Night Football is the New England Patriots at the Pittsburgh Steelers. A few years back this would have been a highly anticipated game to watch. This year…not so much. The Patriots are limping through the season (quite literally) at 2-10, which will likely be Bill Belichick’s last year as Head Coach of New England. The Steelers on the other hand have been sneaky good, entering this week with a 7-5 record. They seem to keep themselves in games just long enough to strike at the very end and secure the victory. Both teams are coming off losses from last week, so who will be the team that bounces back?
New England Patriots
Arguably the worst team in the NFL, although I have them at 31st in my Power Rankings right above Carolina, the Patriots have fallen a long way from the top.
Offensively, they have scored the least amount of points per game in the league while ranking 23rd in passing yards per game, 22nd in rushing yards per game, and fifth worst in overall yards per game with just over 290 yards per game. New England will likely also move on from Quarterback, Mac Jones in the offseason as well, having benched him several times throughout the season for poor play. Billy Zappe will be making the start at QB for the Pats tonight, and he hasn’t faired much better. I see Drake Maye or Caleb Willimas in their future.
Running Back Rhamondre Stevenson leads the team in rushing yards with 619 (22nd in the NFL) and four rushing TDs, but he’s been ruled Out for tonight’s game with a bum ankle. That means Ezekiel Elliott, who has 429 rushing yards and TDs on the season will take the lead back spot. Wide Receiver Demario Douglas is leading the team in receiving yards with 410, but he’s been ruled Out tonight due to a concussion. WR Kendrick Bourne is right behind Douglas in receiving yards with 406, but he was placed on the IR due to a torn ACL. Wide Receivers DeVonte Parker and Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster are going to be the Patriots main receiving threats…if they play. Each of them is listed as Questionable with knee and ankle injuries respectively.
Defensively, New England is third in the NFL for rushing yards allowed per game with 88.7, but it all goes downhill from there. They’re eighth in overall yards allowed per game, 16th in passing yards allowed per game, and 15th in points allowed per game. The Pats are 28th in the league in sacks with only 24, and their turnover differential is second worst in the NFL at -9. They’re 29th in takeaways with 11, and they’re tied for second worst in interceptions thrown with 14. Only the Las Vegas Raiders have more, with 17, which is something New England might be flirting with after tonight. Linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Matthew Judon, and Defensive Tackle Christian Barmore are tied on the Pats with sack, each having four. Barmore is also Questionable for tonight’s game.
Pittsburg is right in the think of the playoffs, currently holding the #5 Seed due to winning tiebreakers against the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans, who each have the same record. Offensively, the Steelers have only one thing going for them; they have a decent ground attack. They’re 14th in rushing yards per games, but have the fifth worst passing attack at only 179 yards per game. They’re also the fifth worst in scoring with an average of 16 points per game. Starting QB Kenny Pickett is Out for tonight’s game because he had surgery on his banged-up ankle. Not that Kenny was all that great, but this could lead to not making the playoffs in a tight conference. Seventh-year QB, Mitch Trubisky will be starting in Pickett’s place.
The Steelers have two solid running backs with Najee Harris recording 661 rushing yards (17th) and four TDs, and Jaylen Warren rushing for 601 yards (24th) and three touchdowns. Harris is listed as Questionable, but it sounds like he will tough it out and play tonight. George Pickens leads the wide receiver group with 44 receptions, 748 yards and three touchdowns, while Dionte Johnson (who’s only played in nine games this season) is right behind him with 34 receptions for 418 yards, and three TDs. Starting Left Guard Isaac Seumalo, and starting Center Mason Cole are both listed as Questions for tonight’s match-up as well, which could make things even more interesting if they can’t go.
Pittsburgh’s defense bends (a lot), but they don’t often break. They even come up with big plays at the end to help the team win. They’re 22nd in rushing yards allowed per game, 19th in passing yards allowed per game, and 21st in overall yards allowed per game…HOWEVER, they’re SIXTH in points allowed per game. Figure that one out. Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Linebacker T.J. Watt is second in the league in sacks with 14; right behind the Chargers’ Khalil Mack, who has 15. Watt is also tied for sixth in tackles for a loss with 13. Linebacker Alex Highsmith has six sacks and seven tackles for a loss, and is also a reason why the Steelers are tied for 12th in the league in sacks with 34.
This game is going to be ugly. Two back-up quarterbacks, neither of which is particularly good, and one team that barely has an offense due to injuries going up against one of the better defenses in the league. Oh, and the Steelers turnover differential is a +10, which is second best in the NFL. Meaning they take the ball away…a lot. They’re tied for fifth in interceptions, fumble recoveries, and overall takeaways. They also don’t make a lot of mistakes, being tied for third fewest interceptions thrown and fifth fewest fumbles lost. The Steelers are tied for first with fewest giveaways (10) with Dallas, San Francisco, and Cincinnati.
I just don’t see an edge for the Patriots, in what will likely be a very one-sided game. Steelers 20, Patriots 10. Thanks for the “read”!