Steelers vs. Patriots: Bold Predictions for Week 9 Matchup
Tom Brady will probably throw a touchdown pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he takes on Mike Tomlin's team Sunday afternoon.
Ok, so that's not a bold prediction. That's a near certainty.
The 2-5 Steelers will either kick off a second-half resurgence by upsetting the Patriots on the road or will sink further into obscurity with yet another disappointing loss this season. The 6-2 Patriots, however, will be looking to tighten their grip on the lead in the AFC East.
Let's take a look at this game through the lens of a few bold predictions.
Stevan Ridley Goes for Over 100 Yards Rushing
The Patriots haven't had a 100-yard rusher since Week 1 when Shane Vereen was still in the lineup. But that's going to change against the Steelers and their 27th ranked run defense.
The truth is, the Patriots lack of 100-yard rushers has more to do with Bill Belichick's insistence on spreading out the carries between LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden and Ridley. After all, Ridley was a 1,200-yard rusher last season and is coming off of a game against the Dolphins in which he had 79 yards on just 14 carries.
That's a pretty impressive game, especially when you consider that he didn't register a carry in the first quarter. As Bleacher Report's Erik Frenz points out in his piece on Ridley in the Patriots offense, Ridley is the team's most successful first down back.
Expect Ridley to see the ball early and often and eclipse the century mark.
Tom Brady Throws for Under 200 Yards—Again
It's not very often that Tom Brady is held under 200 yards passing. In fact, he surpassed that benchmark in every single game of the 2012-13 season. However, we could see him fail to hit that mark for the fourth time this season and second week in a row.
Despite his reputation as one of the game's elite quarterbacks, Brady just hasn't looked anything like the Brady of old in recent weeks. Whether it's a lack of capable receiving threats, injuries (he's listed as probable this week with a shoulder injury, per CBS Sports) or just plain old age, he's struggled with both accuracy and production.
Tom Brady has an NFL-high 76 off-target passes this season, 15 more than the next-closest QB (Eli Manning)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 29, 2013
Great note from @tthasselbeck: This season, Jets QB Geno Smith has more fantasy points (95) than Tom Brady (92).— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 1, 2013
Facing the Steelers isn't a guaranteed remedy to Brady's issues either. We're not exactly talking about a traditional Steelers defense, but Pittsburgh is giving up just 181 yards per game through the air this season.
Patriots Win by Double Digits
According to Bovada, the Patriots are a seven-point favorite. That will prove to be an underestimation of how good this Patriots team is.
Yes, the Steelers are good enough on defense to keep Brady from getting back on track, but that's about all they have going for them in this contest.
The real mismatch that will ensure this game is not close is the Steelers offense going against the Patriots defense. The Steelers have yet to have a 100-yard back themselves all season. Rookie Le'Veon Bell led the team in rushing in their 21-18 loss to the Oakland Raiders with a mere 24 yards.
The Patriots showed exactly how good their defense was in their 27-17 win over the Dolphins last week. After giving up 17 points in the first half, Belichick and Co. made the right halftime adjustments to shut out the Dolphins in the second half.
After sacking Ryan Tannehill six times, the Pats' front seven will feast on a Steelers offensive line that is giving up 3.85 sacks per game this season en route to a comfortable win at home.
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