New England Patriots -6.5 -115
Bryant, Bell, Pouncey, Golson, probably Tuitt, Timmons not 100%. That’s huge. They were 8-2 with and 3-3 without Bryant last season. He only played in 10 games, but he was the most deep-targeted player last season with 41.7%. His 2.75 yards per route run were 3rd in the league, he even beat out Antonio Brown at this number. I think that’s a huge miss for the Steelers. He stretches the field: “While teammate Antonio Brown is PFF’s top-ranked WR entering 2015, Bryant had an impressive rookie campaign in 2014, ranking No. 7 in the league in WR rating at 125.8 (QB rating when targeted). He also ranked No. 6 in yards per route run average at 2.75 — better than Brown, Randall Cobb, and Jordy Nelson. A favorite deep target of Roethlisberger, 41.7 percent of Bryant’s targets were of the deep variety. He caught all seven of his catchable deep balls, with four going for TDs.”
The Pats’ 4-3: Chandler Jones is likely going to lineup as the RDE. His pass rush was good from ROLB last season. Rob Ninkovich can move back to LDE. Isn’t a good pass rusher, but should get better production as he got from LOLB. Collins and Hightower back at full strength, great pass rush from OLB, Mayo playing MLB. Easley showed performances of being a first rounder in the pre-season and if he and Sealver Siliga can somehow get production on the interior, the Patriots have them, because the Steelers are without Bell for screen and short passes and can’t stretch the field like they want to without Martavis Bryant. Big Ben will fail to find enough options on the field, because the Pats will be able to send a 2nd man to “spy” on Antonio Brown. Just watch the AFC Championship game – Kyle Arrington covered TY Hilton and they always had a safety on the spy. Heath Miller won’t have an easy game and he struggled in pass protection last season. With the Patriots being able to send pressure and gameplaning to take ABrown out of the game, I don’t expect the Steelers to move the ball effectively on every drive. We will see a lot of three and outs, especially in the first half.
On the other side: This Patriots offensive line is garbage,and will get eaten alive by the Bills, but against the Steelers it isn’t so bad. Stephon Tuitt was sidelined for weeks and practiced for the first time on Saturday. If Tuitt doesn’t play, will the Steelers get enough pressure on the Pats? I mean, RT Sebastian Vollmer is their best lineman. I would say it’s gonna be a good matchup for him against Tuitt, but against Geathers??? Even with Dupree on top, this is going to be a good matchup for the Patriots as Bud Dupree didn’t look good so far and he will probably need some games to get into the NFL. Their interior should be solid, at least leaning to the right side against McLendon, Geathers/Tuitt and Dupree. So their left side is the issue, but that’s something Belichick and Josh McDaniels can prepare for. Bubble screens, screens, putting Gronkowski and Scott Chandler into good matchups. Remember: the Pats survived heavy pass rush from Miami and Detroit last season at home. C Ryan Stork looks like he probably won’t play so Ryan Wendell is maybe getting the start here. Rookie Tre Jackson should have had a good training camp at RG and can be expected to start next to Vollmer. Talking about Scott Chandler, I believe he will be a guy to surprise many people this season when the Patriots soon will be called “Tight End City”. This guy is 6’7″ and has great hands, I really liked what I saw on a few snaps he was playing. I also liked him at Buffalo, but this time he got the perfect fit at QB. How are the Steelers going to cover a 2-TE-formation including Gronk and Chandler? Ryan Shazier looked stout against the run but terrible in pass coverage. Lawrence Timmons was practicing the first time since weeks on Saturday – he isn’t 100%. So the Steelers have a few question marks on their front seven and their secondary? Still garbage. Tom Brady won’t have any problems Can they prevent the Patriots from marching downfield? On a cold and rainy night at Foxborough? I don’t think so. 35-17 Patriots.