By Ian Palmer
The highly-anticipated 2015 NFL season kicks off this Thursday night, September 10 when the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The big offseason story was the Deflategate farce involving the Patriots and the NFL, which ended up in federal court. The league had handed New England quarterback Tom Brady a four-game suspension for his part in last season’s incident which saw footballs being underinflated during a the AFC Championship game at home against the Indianapolis Colts. Somehow, the NFL’s authority was overturned in court and Brady’s ban was lifted. This means fans will get to see him square off against Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger in the season opener.
Patriots vs Steelers – Football Betting Preview
- bet365 lists the Steelers +7 at 23/20 with New England -7 at 20/21 with the over/under 52 points at 10/11
The Steelers go into this game with enough offensive power to do some damage, but they’ll be without the services of running back Le’Veon Bell who’s suspended for two games due to a DUI charge. The Steelers will likely stick to their passing game against New England’s stripped down secondary. Roethlisberger was tied with Drew Bees for first in passing yards last season with 4,952 and posted 309.5 of them per game. He was definitely helped out by wide receiver Antonio Brown who led the NFL with 1,698 receiving yards and 129 receptions and chipped in with 13 receiving TD’s, which ranked him second in the league.
The Steelers will also be without wide receiver Martavis Bryant as he’s suspended as well. Bryant will miss a quarter of the season with his four-game ban for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. This means Pittsburgh will be depending on rookie Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton to help out with the passing game. Defensively, Pittsburgh struggled a bit last season when trying to handle their opponents’ passing game as they allowed 253.1 yards against per outing. This number ranked them 27th in the league. Also, Jason Worilds and Troy Polamalu both retires and this leaves gaps in the defense. It’ll be up to rookies Senquez Golson and Bud Dupree to fill the void. Pittsburgh is 2-1 against the spread and 3-0 in their last three road contests.
With Brady allowed to play, New England won’t have to test out Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting QB. Brady will be facing a Pittsburgh squad which was ranked 26th in sacks last year with 33, and were 25th with 11 interceptions as well as 27th in passing yards against per game. Brady will utilize the talents of Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman. Brady’s completion percentage last year was 64/1 and he threw for 33 TD’s along with a passing yard total of 4,109. Gronkowski led the team with a dozen TD’s caught and 1,124 receiving yards. La Fell and Edelman both had over 950 receiving yards while combining for 11 receiving TD’s.
New England will also stick to the air since top running back LeGarrette Blount is serving a one-game ban. Also New England’s leading rusher last season Jonas Gray was by the team. This leaves Tavaris Cadet and Brandon Bolden to handle the bulk of the running back duties. The Patriots also lost defensive players Vince Wilfork, Kyle Arrington, Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. The Super Bowl champs go into the game 5-2 against the spread in their last seven home encounters and 6-1 straight up. The Patriots should come out on top in this one, but it’ll be a close affair and they’ll have to work hard for the victory.