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Steelers at Patriots O/U and ATS Picks – AFC Championship

Pittsburgh Steelers(13-5) @ New England Patriots(15-2)

  • Where: Gillette Stadium. Foxboro, MA
  • When: January 22, 2017 6:40 pm EST
  • Spread: Pittsburgh +6 (-105) at New England -6 (-115)
  • Moneyline: Pittsburgh (+185) at New England (-225)
  • Over / Under: Over 51 (-110) vs Under 51 (-110)

Mike Tomlin has seen easier weeks of preparation.

Immediately after last weekend’s 18-16 triumph in Kansas City, the fiery Pittsburgh head coach was heard in the locker room ranting about having “spotted those (expletives) a day and a half” of preparation time, a reference to the Steelers’ late Sunday night/Monday morning road schedule.

As Tomlin spoke, talented wide receiver Antonio Brown ignored the coach while foolishly starring in his own YouTube movie. The HC addressed Brown’s hi-jinks in the harshest possible terms this week, but added that the star WR’s punishment “won’t hurt us,” meaning that Brown will start this Sunday no matter what the organization decides to do with him later.

Finally, the Pittsburgh practice facility has seen an outbreak of 24-hour flu this week. Not necessarily the type of “flu” that appears on Bill Belichick’s injury reports, but a legitimate virus potentially weakening players as they prepare for an AFC Championship Game clash with a 15-2 opponent.

Meanwhile, the Patriots faltered but overcame in a 34-16 Divisional Round win. In defeat, the Houston Texans may have inadvertently given others a potential formula for beating the 2016-17 Pats – grind out points and force turnovers. Brock Osweiler threw interceptions last Saturday, but so did Tom Brady, who tossed two.

A year ago, this pairing would have been cast as the Steelers’ cool-headed consistency and resolve against the high-profile, scandal-plagued dynasty from Boston. Instead, now it is the Patriots showing workmanlike character, staying quiet and focused against an embattled Pittsburgh side that somehow keeps winning.

The money line odds have been stable, but the point spread has jumped from +4.5 to +6 at Bovada and other books. That means gamblers think if the favored Pats win, they’ll win big – thanks to a distracted (and sneezing) Steeler Nation.

Pittsburgh – Finally a NE running game to defend

Steelers vs Patriots Playoff OddsThe Steelers did not score a touchdown in the Divisional Round against Kansas City. QB “Big Ben” Roethlisberger was intercepted by Eric Berry. And the Chiefs could have converted a 2-point try late in the 4th quarter to tie the game, were it not for an untimely penalty.

But the Black and Gold won, which is all they’ve been doing lately. The team hasn’t lost since early November, in a memorable 65-point battle with the Dallas Cowboys. Roethlisberger is still nimble with a rifle arm, and a playground style that gets better as defenses get rougher. 4th-year tailback Le’Veon Bell is having a marvelous season and peaking at the right time, rushing for almost six yards per carry and two touchdowns in two playoff games.

New England is 7-3 in the last 10 head to head match-ups, partly due to a style advantage. The Steelers are old-fashioned, stopping the run first and making the opponent one-dimensional. Brady has been happy to take the bait, throwing completions all over the field and only using the run as an occasional keep-’em-honest token.

But this season, Patriots’ game-plans have focused on making LaGarrette Blount a bona-fide #1 RB, body-punching to keep heat off of their aging superstar signal-caller. Blount ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns when New England beat Pittsburgh in October, but the 2016-17 Steelers have played the best run defense of 12 teams in the post-season and are not likely to let Blount carry the day.

The Steel Curtain’s pass rush, or lack of one, is a potential weakness going into battle with Brady. Veteran blitzer James Harrison collected only five sacks during the regular season, which leads the team.

K.I.P.P. – Keep it pretty, Pats

If the game on Sunday is a ballet, the Patriots are almost sure to win. In a pocket-passing contest, Tom Brady and the depth of the New England receiving corps will outpace Big Ben.

But what if the scrum is grudging, sloppy? Then it’s advantage-Steelers.

To bring about the former scenario, the hosts will nickel-and-dime down the field with safe short throws, and mix in rushes by Blount to keep the OL blocking downhill. The danger is another bout of poor route-running and forced throws. Against the Texans, Brady had one of his worst playoff outings as a pro with sub-50% completions, two interceptions and two sacks-against.

The iconic QB is as emotionally wound-up as ever, hoping to hoist a Lombardi trophy next to NFL commissioner/Deflate-Gate nemesis Roger Goodell. Against great defenses, that passion can be a double-edged sword. Even Tom Terrific can lose patience when frustrated and anxious to score points. The Patriots will want to get ahead early and stay ahead to keep the pressure off.

Mr. Vegas won’t ‘low it

If correlated parlays in the same game were allowed, bettors would have a strong value bet with Pittsburgh and the points, plus the under. If the Steelers win or even come close, it will be because they force the Patriots to play a tight and physical game with the ball up for grabs on passing plays.

But even though a magic bet isn’t permissible, keep an eye on the weather. The rain currently soaking the Midwest is not expected to sweep into Boston until Monday morning, but an early arrival could change field conditions and help Pittsburgh disrupt the Pats’ offense.

If TV camera lenses are blurry-wet at 7 PM on Sunday night, hurry up and in-play a unit or two on the under (51) OR on the Steelers ATS.

Get ready, Roger

Place your wager on the New England Patriots ATS at the Bovada Sportsbook.

Goodell is avoiding Gillette Stadium this weekend, but should prepare to welcome the Patriots (through gritted teeth) at Super Bowl LI.

The Steelers do not have the pass rush to challenge Tom Brady on the road. Big Ben will scramble and Bell will break a few decent runs, but field goals will not match touchdowns – and the Pats will win by double-digits as the wet weather holds off just long enough.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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