Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sunday’s Pittsburgh-New England Game Could be AFC Championship Preview
Sunday’s Pittsburgh-New England Game Could be AFC Championship Preview

Pittsburgh and New England are the top two teams in the AFC and are playing Sunday in what could be a sneak peak at the AFC Championship a month from now. The Patriots are traveling to the Steel City and are a 3-point favorite despite being on the road.

Mike Tomlin Bill Belichick

Pittsburgh Coach Mike Tomlin will try and avenge last year’s 36-17 loss to Bill Belichick’s Patriots in last season’s AFC Championship when the two teams meet Sunday. (Image: Getty Images)

They opened anywhere from one to two points but saw the line increase earlier this week. The over-under has actually decreased a point since it opened at 54 ½.

The Steelers have won their last eight consecutive games, including Monday night’s come from behind effort against Baltimore, 39-38 last Sunday. They are 11-2 on the season with their only losses coming to Chicago and Jacksonville.

The Patriots are 10-3 and are coming off a shocking 27-20 defeat to division rival Miami, 37-20 on Monday Night Football. That snapped an eight-game winning streak. They previously lost to Kansas City opening week and Carolina two weeks later. In the three most recent times New England lost their home opener they went on to win the Super Bowl.

They are still the favorites to win the Super Bowl at 9-4. They opened at 6-1. The Steelers are next at 3-1, dropping from opening odds of 10-1.

History on Patriots Side

Of the previous nine match ups between the teams seven of them have gone to Head Coach Bill Belichick’s squad. That includes last year’s AFC Championship, which New England won, 36-17.

Quarterback Tom Brady has not lost two away games in a row since 2015. The team is also undefeated in their last six games following a loss, which includes a mark of 6-0 against the spread.

As an underdog at home the Steelers are 10-6 straight up and 11-3-2 ATS in their last 16 games. One important stat is that the Steelers have lost by an average of 15.3 points in the last four contests with New England.

Much at Stake Sunday

With a victory the Steelers would probably wrap up the best record in the conference and ensure home field throughout the playoffs. If New England wins they would match Pittsburgh’s record and have the tie breaker to claim the home-field advantage if the two meet in the AFC Championship.

The Patriots offense is ranked second overall and will face the Steelers’ No. 5 defense. Pittsburgh has the advantage on offense with its No. 4 ranked offense going against New England’s No. 29th defense.

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin was accused of looking ahead to the New England game the last few weeks, but he vehemently denied the accusation.

“I don’t know that any of us were looking ahead to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said during a conference call with Patriots media. “When we do interviews and people ask us about potential big games down the road, we’re going to politely answer questions and do so honestly. That’s not us looking down the road. That’s us simply performing our professional duties.”

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