The Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) at New England Patriots (7-4)
The Terms: Regular Season Week 13
The Place: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass
The Time: 4:15pm
The Channel: CBS
3 Burning Questions:
- Can the Steelers stop the Matt Cassel attack? This would have been a laughable question in the beginning of the season but the emergence of Cassel as a passing threat is nothing to scoff at. That said, if there is one team who can top Cassel’s recent run it’s the Steelers. Coming into today’s game the Steelers rank #1 in the NFL not only in passing defense but rushing defense as well. The Steelers have allowed just 168 yards passing per game and 235 yards a game overall. Cassel’s style of passes on the shorter side should keep the Steelers on their heels but accuracy is going to be paramount if the Patriots are to move the ball through the air. With the Pats running game an inconsistency and the Steelers having a great rush defense, every yard gained is going to be important.
- Can the defense stop anyone? Despite the refreshing success of the offense in the past few weeks the defense has been exposed as extremely mediocre in the secondary. There is a disclaimer that against the Jets the Patriots were missing Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas AND Ty Warren due to injury. However, last week against the Dolphins Warren was back and it still felt as though the last team with the ball was going to win as confidence in the Pats defense was non-existent. Against the Steelers, the Pats need to take advantage of some turnovers and keep Ben Roethlisberger from standing in the pocket untouched. Though the Pats rank in the middle of pack in all three major defensive categories the rushing defense has been decent. Rushing the passer will be key as Big Ben can hurt you short and long if he’s given time. Richard Seymour and Ty Warren either need to get after the QB or hold up offensive linemen for the linebackers to shoot the gaps and disrupt Big Ben.
- Can the Patriots lose and still be a favorite to make the playoffs? Right now the Patriots are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. It’s pretty safe to say the Titans will win the AFC South and the Broncos will win the AFC West. In the East, North and South, the second place teams all have 7-4 records. Three teams with 7-4 records for only two spots. The Colts have been playing much better of late and their schedule is pretty easy the rest of the way. The Ravens, on the other hand, still have home games against the Steelers and Redskins and also have a trip to Dallas to face the Cowboys. After this week’s game the Pats should have wins against the Seahawks and Raiders before a showdown against Cardinals and the year ends with a trip to Buffalo. In my opinion it’s going to come down to the Patriots, Jets and Ravens fighting for two playoff spots and I think 11-5 will get a team into the playoffs. If the Patriots win today it will go a long way to moving them from the “Still Alive” column into the “Playoff” column.
The Patriots are at home which gives them an edge and the Steelers may have Willy Parker back. Mewelde Moore has filled in admirably (677 yards total yards, six touchdowns) but having Parker will help. Vince Wilfork had a strong game last week and he’ll need a similar effort today. The Patriots defense seems to play down (or up) to their opponents and I see that happening again today. Rushing the quarterback is the single most important aspect of the game for the Patriots defense whereas limiting mistakes is key for the Patriots offense. Last week the Dolphins scored 14 points off turnovers and that can’t happen this week if the Patriots want to win. It’s tough not to believe in Cassel right now and I see him throwing for 225 yards and a touchdown. Converting in the red zone could mean the game and I don’t see either team running away with this one. A late comeback will fall short for the Steelers and the Patriots defense will finally step up and win a game for the team.
Patriots 23, Steelers 20
Tags: Adalius Thomas, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Cassel, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren