Free NFL Pick: New England at Pittsburgh 11-14-2010

November 13, 2010

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New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday November 14th, 2010 8:20 PM EST

Line: Pittsburgh -5

Overview:

The 6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers need this home game. On their three game road trip, the squeaked past the Dolphins, lost by ten to the Saints, and allowed Terrelle Owens to gain 141 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the Steelers six point victory over the Bengals. They take on the 6-2 New England Patriots, who are none too pleased about their embarrassing twenty point loss against the Browns last week. With both teams playing in the highly competitive AFC, every single game is of the utmost importance. One slip up, and a team could wind up sitting at home watching the playoffs, even at 11-5.

Keys to the Game:

  • The Patriots miss Randy Moss. With Moss, Tom Brady threw for nine touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 110.78 QB rating in four games.  Without him, Brady has thrown for five touchdowns, two interceptions, and a QB rating of 85.9. Moss consumed two defenders on nearly every play, making it impossible for defenses to focus on lesser talents like Aaron Hernandez. Without Moss, aside from losing out on his direct impact on the offense, everyone suffers. He made everyone around him better, because defenses had to account for him at all times. Wes Welker is a great asset, but he specializes in underneath routes when he gets lost in coverage. The Patriots are certainly not better for having Deion Branch instead of Randy Moss.
  • Pittsburgh terrifies opposing defenses, but they have holes at defensive back. It is clear that James Harrison, James Farrior, Troy Polamalu, etc. are all physical ferocious defensive presences. Last week, the Steelers allowed Terrelle Owens to handle their secondary, without making an adjustment and rolling coverage to his side of the field. Perhaps they didn’t want Chad Ocho Cinco to get rolling, but giving up that sort of game this week could spell disaster. The Patriots are much better than the Bengals and won’t lose if they have a receiver that has such a dominating performance.
  • Rashard Mendenhall could exploit the Patriots defense. New England has a young defense with a lot of players who are not big name guys. Mendenhall has scored three times in the last four weeks. The Patriots will struggle handling the physicality and speed of Mendenhall. It is easy to see Ben Roethlisberger and feel a need to bring in an extra defensive back, but that would allow Mendenhall to have a huge game. The Patriots have to play honestly and if Mendenhall gets gong early, the play action is going to create big play potential down the stretch.
  • Mike Wright is one of those guys on the Patriots defense that not many people have ever heard of. He has had a sack in four of his last five games. The Steelers have to account for Wright, as he has become this year’s version of Richard Seymour for the Patriots. The offensive line has done an admirable job and Steelers fans have to be happy Maurkice Pouncey is not seriously hurt.
  • Mike Wallace is going to torch the Patriots. Wallace only has 22 catches this year, but he has five touchdowns and 507 yards. He is one of the elite deep threats in the NFL. The Patriots can’t afford to take their eyes off Mendenhall, so they won’t be able to give much help to covering Wallace. Wallace has the speed to flat out blow by defenders. One false move and he is likely to score. Hines Ward is still the number one receiver, but Wallace gives the offense a home run threat On any given play, he can take the ball to house. Keep an eye out for Wallace in this one, especially if the Steelers succeed on the ground.

Wrap Up:

It is going to be interesting to see how Bill Belichick responds to losing to the Browns. The Patriots have been hemorrhaging talent for the past few seasons and it looks like it might be catching up to them. Obviously, the Patriots are still one of the best teams in the NFL, but they are not playing their best football. The Steelers have appeared suspect over the last few games. While they are winning, they are not winning big. That being said, they are at home and it is time for them to make a statement.

Fre NFL Pick: Pittsburgh -5


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