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New England Patriots vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Point Spread - Pick

New England Patriots (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2 SU, 6-7 ATS)
Week 15 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 17, 2017 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV: CBS

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: NE -2/PIT +2
Over/Under Total: 53

The New England Patriots take on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in the marquee matchup of the week on Sunday afternoon. This game features the two top dogs in the AFC. The Steelers are coming off a barnburner on Sunday night, when they rallied from off the pace to beat the Baltimore Ravens, 39-38. Ben Roethlisberger became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 500 yards in a game three times. It was an impressive game, as Pittsburgh has become very adept at overcoming deficits, a skill that could come in handy in a game like this and beyond into the postseason. The Patriots fell to the Dolphins on Monday Night Football, 27-20, breaking an 8-game winning streak. They have all the motivation to win this week, to avoid losing momentum and to beat the team with the best record in the conference,

On Sunday night against Baltimore, the Steelers looked good taking a 14-0 lead, but Baltimore hung in there and scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take an 11-point lead. Against a defense that had been playing very well, Pittsburgh scored 4 times in the last quarter with some impassioned play on both sides of the ball. A 46-yard FG by Chris Boswell in the game's final minute notched the win, which was their eighth in a row.

The Steelers' offense has been more of a high-flying one lately. We've seen higher point-totals over the course of the last month. Big Ben was huge with 44 completions with 506 yards passing on Sunday. He connected with Antonio Brown to the tune of 213 yards, with TE Jesse James catching ten balls, and Le'Veon Bell catching nine balls and a touchdown, along with the two he added on the ground. Without JuJu Smith-Schuster, some suspected the aerial game would be off-key, but it was far from that. For much of the season, the Steelers were not a good offense, despite all the tools at their disposal. For them to be peaking now is a really good sign. And doing well this week would also be a good sign.

The Pittsburgh defense suffered a major blow the previous week with the loss of LB Ryan Shazier. And maybe his absence was felt on Sunday, with a Pittsburgh defense that has been great this season was getting victimized readily by a Ravens' offense that had rarely been effective. But even in the midst of giving up all that offense to the Ravens, with a lot of it coming in short bursts, they showed how clutch they are late. And that's been a common theme in recent weeks, with a defense that plays its best late in games. They weren't that good against the pass or the run on Sunday, but they made enough plays late to get it done. Sean Davis had a pick, TJ Watt got after the quarterback, and LB Vince Williams continued to thrive.

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The Patriots didn't seem themselves on MNF. They were out-of-rhythm on both sides of the ball and fell behind 27-10 in the third quarter, never really looking the part of a winner on Monday. On one hand, it's a fool's game to underestimate the Pats, but this is their 5th road game in 6 weeks, a really hard run of games away from home. And with the last game in that brutal stretch being at Heinz Field could present some issues. At the same time, it might have been better for the Steelers if the Patriots just won as they were expected to on MNF. After a rough start to the season, it took a lot of wherewithal for the Patriots to get on a roll and they will be eager to not relinquish more momentum this week.

The New England offense was not in top form against the Dolphins in their last game. They couldn't much going for long stretches of the game and looked flat. Tom Brady was not his normal self, throwing two picks and going just 24-for-43. They only ran the ball ten times being behind most of the game and made no impact on the ground. It was almost uncanny how they failed to convert a single third down the whole game. It hurt not having Rob Gronkowski in there, as he will return this week after serving a brief suspension. WR Chris Hogan got on the field on Monday and will be valuable if he works his way back into the offense. WR Brandin Cooks was strangles silent on Sudnay too and should bounce back this week. One should expect them to not be as flat as they were in their last showing.

The New England defense slipped some on Monday, giving up 27 to the Dolphins, Over the previous eight games, no opponent had surpassed 17 points against the Patriots. But after how ragged they looked in the first month of the season, it's critical they don't revert to that form. They yielded Jay Cutler's best game of the season, while Miami running back Kenyan Drake gained 114 yards on the ground. They have suffered a lot of injuries on this side of the ball and this week is critical in establishing where this defense truly stands with the postseason now looming.

Last season, New England beat the Steelers, 36-17, in the playoffs and have won the last four meetings between these teams. The last time Pittsburgh beat the Patriots, their leading rusher on the day was Rashard Mendenhall. This should be a high-intensity affair from these two teams. Both squads are coming off a stretch of tough games, but should be mentally-up for this battle on Sunday. I see the Steelers as being the better value this week. I'm taking Pittsburgh.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Pittsburgh Steelers minus 2 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the New England vs. Pittsburgh game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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