September 18, 2019
Heading into this Sunday’s game for the Pittsburgh Steelers who are in San Francisco to take on the unbeaten 2-0 49ers, should their game be rendered a “must” win?
If they lose, they’ll be 0-3 and in the history of the National Football League ONLY six teams came back from an 0-3 record and got into the post season. Those six are:
The ½ change is the continuation from the second and third quarters of last weekend’s game with Seattle that has quarterback Mason Rudolph making his first-ever start in the NFL on Sunday. The other change is the arrival of Minkah Fitzpatrick who is said to be slated for plenty of action come Sunday. Steelers Nation is bracing with excitement to see what the former Miami Dolphin safety brings to the table.
I expect a solid performance from the Steelers even with Rudolph taking the offensive calls. Mike Tomlin’s teams rarely play three bad games in a row.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL
James Conner is nicked up but he’s going to give it a go. Thus far his numbers are poor with just 54 yards on 21 carries but he has scored once in the first two games. Maybe we’ll see rookie Benny Snell get a few more carries after touching the ball once and gaining 23 yards on the single carry. The Steelers because of Rudolph are indicating they will try to run more so we’ll see. Jaylen Samuels is also a good runner with 22 yards on his five carries in 2019.
Rudolph and Randy Fichtner are not going to shy from throwing the ball and the second year QB for Pittsburgh showed he can handle the duties last Sunday when he had a rating of 92.4 with 112 yards on 12 completions. That rating was better than what Ben Roethlisberger had done in one and one-half games this season.
I think Mike Tomlin is going to test that San Francisco defense and put his faith in the “new look” defense with Fitzpatrick back in the secondary. As for the 49ers defense, their secondary can be giving. Last Sunday despite beating Cincinnati 41-17, the San Francisco defense allowed Andy Dalton to throw for 418 yards and two touchdowns. They did sack him five times but they can be thrown on.
WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL
When San Francisco got Jimmy Garoppolo from New England, he got off to a fast start and then last season got injured. The Niners believe he is their franchise quarterback and Nick Mullens will remain the backup. This season he is not overwhelming anyone and their running and receiving corps should not scare the Steelers defense. Garoppolo has just 462 yards in two games, Matt Breida leads the team in rushing with 158 yards in addition to Raheem Mostert’s 123, and George Kittle is the leading receiver with only 108 yards through the air.
As for the Steelers defense, the question remains, is this unit UNDER ACHIEVING or is this a case of POOR COACHING? There is no doubt that talent exists among the starting 11 and now with the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick, the upgrade on defense is scoring big points among the experts. I concur. I think the Steelers INSTANTLY got better and like so many others, I’m excited to see #39 doing his thing on Sunday.
But the defense clearly has to do more. They tired in the second half against Seattle last Sunday and they need to FINISH games. The secondary has LONG been the team’s Achilles heal and fans have been waiting for the second coming of a Troy Polamalu, Rod Woodson, or a Carnell Lake. They might just have it in Minkah Fitzpatrick.
If Minkah can help the secondary improve and Joe Haden starts playing in the All-Pro form for which we expect of him, the Pittsburgh defense may start looking a bit dominating again. They NEED that to happen. If I was defensive coordinator Keith Butler, after two dismal performances back-to-back, I’d start shaking things up a bit.
What would I do on Sunday? Either start rookie Devin Bush over veteran Mark Barron or give the kid A LOT more playing time, and move rookie Ulysees Gilbert III up the depth chart past Tyler Matakevich and into the starting role over Vince Williams given how impressive the rookie was in training camp and the preseason. Regardless, I just can’t fathom another bad defensive performance on Sunday against a team that Pittsburgh should CLEARLY defeat.
Based on history, when the Steelers have their backs to the wall they have typically come out smoking and performed much better. Well their backs are to the wall now and they can ill afford to lose a third straight. If that happens we may be saying sayonara to the post season.
I had picked the Steelers to win the first two and missed on both. Three strikes you are out? I’ll take my chances. I think there is no way the Steelers lose this game. Early in the season or not, mid-season form or not, they have no business losing. I think Mason Rudolph will do great as he showed great poise last week and composure and threw some solid passes. The defense will come alive I predict and all together it will give the Pittsburgh Steelers their first victory of the new season. Steelers 27 San Francisco 13.
After going a dismal 6-10 last week with my picks, I’ll see if I can bring that up a notch or two with my NFL week #3 predictions.
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags are in nearly the same boat as the Steelers. 0-2, starting quarterback down and out, desperate for a win. But Jacksonville is also dealing with a disgruntled super star in Jalen Ramsey who seems to be indicating this will be his last game as a Jaguar after demanding a trade. What affect will that have on the team as they take on a team that has become accustomed to beating up on Jacksonville? We’ll see in this week’s Thursday night game. The Titans are clearly the better team. Titans 30 Jaguars 20.
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
Detroit toys with its fans season in and season out the last few years making believers out of some and then going out and laying eggs. The Lions looked pretty good last week picking up their first win but they won’t be so lucky this week. Eagles 34 Detroit 17.
New York Jets at New England Patriots
The defending Super Bowl champions have two straight blowouts. WAIT…make that three. This won’t even be anything resembling close. New York is two quarterbacks down now having to play Luke Falk. WHO? Exactly. I hope Le’Veon Bell for his sake still thinks he made the right decision. Patriots 38 Jets 10.
Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings
With Antonio Brown the Raiders got a win! But not this week. Vikings 33 Raiders 14.
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs
ABSOLUTELY the AFC Game of the Week. Two high flying QBs throwing the rock around. It should be a fun game to watch and it will most likely be close. But the Chiefs at home is very difficult. Chiefs 27 Ravens 24.
Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers
Another 0-2 team about to go 0-3. Bet the house on this one. Packers 37 Broncos 17.
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys
How bad do the Minkah Fitzpatrick-less Dolphins get clobbered this week? Pretty well clobbered. Cowboys 38 Dolphins 6.
Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts
The Falcons shocked the Eagles in week two now they face a surprising Andrew Luck-less Colts team. I like the homers here. Colts 30 Falcons 24.
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills
The Bengals are what we thought they’d be. BAD. Buffalo is pulling off one of their early season fast starts so we’ll see where that goes. On this day it goes in the win column. Bills 28 Bengals 17.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
I’m a believer now in Kyler Murray. He is good. He can play in the NFL. He will lead his team to their first victory on Sunday. Cardinals 24 Panthers 17.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
So it is the Daniel Jones debut. If he can play like he did in the preseason, Eli Manning may never get his starting job back. Just like Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. But no matter what he does, it won’t be good enough for a win. Bucs 33 Giants 27.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Geez…another team with a first string quarterback sidelined. Without Brees playing in front of the “12th man” no chance. Seahawks 25 Saints 14.
Houston Texans at Los Angeles Chargers
This game is like a closely matched boxing bout or MMA fight. Too close to call. I’ll just wing it and say the home team prevails. Chargers 30 Texans 27.
Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns
Having lost to the Titans and then beating an injured Jets team, now we find out if the Brown are really for REAL. If they can hold their own or win facing the Rams on their own turf, they have certainly turned the corner and their arrow will be pointing up. I’m not impressed with the Rams and something tells me the Browns are going to win. Browns 28 Rams 27.
Chicago Bears at Washington Redskins
The Redskins join the Steelers, Jaguars, Giants, Cardinals, Panthers, Jets, Dolphins, and the Bengals as teams who have not yet won a game after two weeks of the 2019 season. They’ll get off that bandwagon here. Redskins 17 Bears 14.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 13 years since the Pittsburgh Steelers dumped the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL 21-10 and for some ‘Hawks fans, they are still bitter about that loss believing the referees cost them an NFL title.
But here we are in 2019 and the two teams will meet for the fourth time since that championship game with Pittsburgh having taken two of the last three. Overall, the Steelers and Seattle have played 18 times, 17 in the regular season and this Sunday’s game will break a 9-9 series tie.
The game is Pittsburgh’s home opener and there have been nine previous meetings between the two teams that were played at Three Rivers Stadium or Heinz Field. It’s been four years since the last matchup between the Steelers and Seahawks. That previous game was in Seattle where the Steelers lost 39-30 in a wild affair.
But in the ‘Burgh, the Black and Gold have won seven of nine. The last two games at Heinz Field resulted in Seattle being shutout, 21-0 in 2007 and 24-0 in 2011. Interestingly enough, that October 7, 2007 game was a follow-up to the 2006 Super Bowl and Pittsburgh scored the same 21 points they did in taking home their fifth Lombardi Trophy.
It might be a good thing this game is at Heinz Field because facing Seattle on the road, the Steelers have won only one of eight. Before I get to my preview, a view of one of several latest power rankings.
NFL Power Rankings - Week 2: Overreactions for every team
In this edition, we leap to way-too-early conclusions after a wild first week of gridiron action.
#1. New England Patriots (1-0)
The season might as well be declared over. The reigning champions crushed the Steelers - supposedly one of their biggest challengers in the AFC - with shocking ease. Nobody will be able to prevent the Patriots from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy once again.
#19. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1)
Previous Rank: 16
The Steelers being outcoached by the Patriots is nothing new, but Ben Roethlisberger usually keeps it interesting with a few deep bombs. Despite leading the league in passing during 2018, Big Ben's arm appeared to be in decline. Now, it seems the quarterback's days of dominating downfield are over.
I never pay much attention to power rankings because the only thing that matters in the end is which team is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
A little insight on the Steelers heading into week #2…
NFL Week 2 survivor picks
Alex Moretto, theScore.com
If you're feeling lucky: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were curb-stomped Sunday night, humiliated on national television, but come into Week 2 as favorites. How?
Well, the Seahawks didn't look much better, that's how. Pittsburgh lost at Foxboro against Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Super Bowl champions. Seattle lucked its way into a one-point win, at home, against a Cincinnati Bengals team with just one win since last October. The Bengals had 200 more yards of offense, while Russell Wilson struggled to move the ball and was sacked five times behind an offensive line that Seahawks fans must be concerned about. And now they have to travel across the country to take on an angry Steelers team. No thanks.
Pittsburgh is on a 9-0 run under Mike Tomlin as the home favorite when coming off a double-digit loss. Meanwhile, Seattle is 1-9 straight up under Pete Carroll as a road 'dog in non-conference games. The Seahawks are also 5-16 ATS under Carroll when traveling to the Eastern time zone for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
The Steelers have a tough home schedule this season. This might be the spot to take them.
Shooting Down Some ‘Hawks
The Seattle Seahawks come to Pittsburgh narrowly escaping defeat in the season opener to the Cincinnati Bengals. By beating the Bengals 21-20, Seattle’s defense allowed Andy Dalton to complete 35 of 51 passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns. They did however get to him behind the line of scrimmage five times. Seattle completely stuffed Cincinnati’s running game while offensively, there wasn’t a lot to brag about. Russell Wilson was sacked four times and no other offensive numbers stood out.
WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
I questioned earlier this week whether the Patriots were that good or was Pittsburgh that bad? On both sides of the ball. The Steelers’ defense is what scares me the most. They got worked by Tom Brady last Sunday night. The 42-year old six-time Super Bowl winning quarterback made everything look so easy. Granted the Patriots are the world champions and an outstanding team in playing ability and coaching but if our defense is no better than what we saw up in New England this season is going to be a VERY long one.
For Seattle, Russell Wilson is that team’s only viable dangerous weapon. Receivers like Tyler Lockett and Nick Vannett and running backs Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson should pose no threat to Pittsburgh’s defense if they are on their game and playing to their abilities. That’s what I hope for is that the Steelers defense bounces back in a big way and shows Steelers Nation that the opening day loss was nothing more than an aberration.
Pittsburgh’s secondary HAS to be much better. Whether the Patriots are champions or not, a first game score of 33-3 is just downright embarrassing. Brady throws for 341 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, sacked just once and a QB rating of 124.9 is not a good indication of where our defense is. It gives the impression that either Tom Brady is superman or Pittsburgh’s defense just sucks. I thought this defense would be much improved in 2019 so I’m hopeful that on Sunday we see some of that improvement.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL
The Steelers believed that the absence of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell would not diminish the production of the Steelers’ offense. It appears that Roosevelt Nix won’t be able to play with a knee injury but the tight ends should be able to cover for his blocking abilities until he returns. Following the ineptness of Ben Roethlisberger’s unit last Sunday night much emphasis was put on that simple fact that without B&B this won’t be the same offense.
I don’t buy that. It was only the first game of the season and the offense was obviously not in sync. Dante Moncrief is not as bad as his multiple cement hands night. He was targeted 10 times and came away with just three receptions and 10 yards. Sunday presents a good opportunity for the Steelers to right the ship and get a few wins under their belt before facing the high flying Ravens in Pittsburgh on October 6. In between there is Seattle, San Francisco, and the Bengals, three games Pittsburgh has no business losing and a chance to get the offense in rhythm and prepare for a tough Baltimore team and then a follow-up out west against the Chargers.
The Steelers have a reputation of bouncing back in a big way after an embarrassing loss. As this is the home opener I fully expect that to be the case. Mike Tomlin should have the team clean up all the mistakes in practice this week and if his team comes out flat again on Sunday, you know there are bigger issues. The crowd will be alive and the Steelers by Sunday will have forgotten last Sunday night’s nightmare.
I have confidence that you will be seeing a MUCH different team in the Steelers come Sunday. I think the defense has a chip on their shoulder to prove they are way better than what they gave up in New England. Steelers 27 Seahawks 13.
Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin indicated on Tuesday that the Steelers could be without fullback Roosevelt Nix for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field after he suffered a knee injury against the Patriots.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
In reviewing last week’s performance by these two teams, Carolina definitely played better and they are home for this one. Advantage Panthers. Panthers 31 Tampa 24.
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals opened some eyes last week nearly winning on the road but San Francisco also played well. Andy Dalton is under the gun forced to have a good season or he might be seeking a new team in 2020. His current roll will continue. Bengals 21 49ers 17.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
The Cowboys blew out the Giants in their season opener while the ‘Skins choked. I’m not sold on Dallas and I think Washington has enough to pull the upset. Redskins 23 Dallas 21.
Arizona Cardinals at Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens set the tone for the AFC North last weekend and the other AFC North teams best be prepared for a season long war as Baltimore defends their division title. Ravens 38 Cardinals 12.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans
No Luck certainly did not mean NO LUCK for Indianapolis in week one as they nearly won. Tennessee just laid it on the “new look” Browns. This one will be closer. Titans 30 Colts 24.
Buffalo Bills at New York Giants
It should be Eli Manning again behind center but if he performs badly here don’t be surprised if Daniel Jones is the starter the following weekend. Buffalo had a nice comeback to upend the Jets and Le’Veon Bell. Josh Allen had a decent day despite throwing two picks. Giants 28 Bills 17.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
This game could be WAY ugly. If Antonio Brown avoids being held out by the NFL for the rape allegations he is facing then you can rest assured he will be the recipient of at least one touchdown. Even without him, you can see the damage the Patriots can inflict on a team after what they did to the Steelers. Miami gave up 59 points to Lamar Jackson and Baltimore who are certainly not New England. Patriots 51 Miami 10.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
The Jags are in trouble. They went out of their way to get Nick Foles onboard in the off-season and let Blake Bortles finally go and then Foles breaks a clavicle against Kansas City last Sunday and is out at least until sometime in November. That leaves rookie Gardner Minshew unless he falters then ex-Steeler Joshua Dobbs will become the starter. For now, they are no match for Houston in Houston. Texans 33 Jaguars 14.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Are the Packers back to normal? This game might reflect on that. Packers 28 Vikings 24.
Los Angeles Chargers at Detroit Lions
Detroit is left licking their wounds after tying Arizona last Sunday and allowing rookie Kyler Murray to bring his team back and send the game into overtime. Another season for Philip Rivers which in the end will probably result in another opportunity that goes by the wayside to get into a Super Bowl. This will be a tough game for both teams. Lions 35 Chargers 31.
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
No Brown…no problem. The Raiders without Antonio Brown defeated the Denver Broncos. The Broncs are certainly no barn burners so not sure how much to make of that Oakland victory. The Chiefs have a potent offense and you know they are going to score and score again in this one. Hats off to the Black Hole though last Monday by chanting “Fuck A.B.” That was classic. Chiefs 39 Raiders 14.
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams
In typical Drew Brees style, the Saints came from behind to defeat the Texans on Monday night and this game could be a playoff preview. It might even be a possible NFC title game matchup come January. I like a road upset here. Saints 30 Rams 27.
Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos
Did Mitch Trubisky have a career year in 2018? Some believe he is not as good as how he performed last season. I’m on that train. Joe Flacco might not be as great as some think he can be but he is still effective. Broncos 17 Bears 14.
Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
The Eagles got a win on opening day while the Falcons were not so good. I’m not a believer in this Atlanta team either where some think they are playoff bound. Eagles 31 Falcons 17.
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets
This should be a fun game between two bad teams from 2018 and before that. Can Baker Mayfield and his toys rebound from a red-faced loss to face Le’Veon Bell in a hostile New Jersey stadium? How many BIG games will Bell have this season? This could be the first. Jets 24 Browns 17.
Football fans awoke this morning very excited. That’s because the NFL is back for another season that begins this evening in Chicago where the Green Bay Packers and the Bears renew a rivalry that began in 1921 and the two teams will play tonight in the 199th game of their long series.
The Packers have won 97 of those 198 games played losing 95 and there have been six ties. Come Sunday, the rest of the league will be playing their games with two games set for Monday night. The kickoff for MNF 2019 will be the Houston Texans visiting the New Orleans Saints and in the second game the matchup is between the Denver Broncos who are on the road in Oakland to face the new look Raiders.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers, it is a HUGE opening game as they visit the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. All my picks for the remaining 15 games appear below but first a preview of what I expect from Sunday night when Devin Bush and other new members of wearing Black and Gold for the first time make their debut.
For the Pittsburgh Steelers most of Steelers Nation dreads having to travel to New England to play the Patriots. The series between the two teams is actually tied at 16 including playoffs and during the regular season, the Steelers hold a 15-12 advantage. It’s in the post-season where New England has the Steelers number. In the playoffs, the Patriots OWN the Steelers with four victories in five meetings.
When the schedule has had Pittsburgh on the road playing New England, the Steelers have lost six of 10 played in Foxboro. Some of those were bad losses, having been dropped 36-17 the last time Pittsburgh played on Patriots’ turf, that coming in the post-season on January 22, 2017. The Patriots have also dumped the Steelers by scores of 55-31, 34-13, 30-14, and 28-3 in games played in New England.
So why should the 2019 season opener be any different? Obviously, Tom Brady is back for another season. He still has some very good weapons on offense but gone is the “Steelers killer” named Rob Gronkowski. For me, New England’s offense is beatable. It’s their schemes and the combination of smarts and adjustments between Brady and head coach Bill Belichick that makes this team so good.
Defensively, New England is strong and they have proven they can switch game plans while on the field to ensure the can stop any bleeding that begins. But have they improved since winning the Super Bowl last February? I argue no. Have the Steelers improved since having their dismal season of 2018 and missing the playoffs? That’s a definitive YES. Some crafty veterans came in, the draft was strong, and two cancers are no longer with the team the B&B duo of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL
Ben Roethlisberger gave the impression in training camp and in the pre-season that he was as excited about this forthcoming season as any season prior. Why? Perhaps it’s because he knows there won’t be the drama of an Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell. But also because he has a few new toys to work with. James Conner returns from injury and if he picks up from where he left off in 2018 then the Steelers running game will be in excellent shape.
Backing up Conner is Jaylen Samuels who was impressive last season and then there is rookie Benny Snell Jr. who earned a spot on the roster in his first-ever NFL season. Snell played his college ball at the University of Kentucky where he set or tied 14 school records. In 39 games with the Wildcats, Snell rushed for 3,873 yards which is nearly 100 yards per game.
One of Big Ben’s new “toys” is veteran receiver Donte Moncrief who comes in from Jacksonville and will take over for JuJu Smith-Schuster in the #2 wide receiving role and JuJu replaces A.B. as the #1. James Washington seems to have found himself playing well in the preseason and Diontae Johnson opened eyes in the pre-season to the point it cost Eli Rogers his spot on the regular season roster.
Expect the Steelers to come out running and test New England’s secondary first with some slot patterns then when the time is right sending Washington deep but also keep your eyes open for a Diontae Johnson splash play. I think the Steelers can certainly move the ball downfield on New England but no matter what happens, keep in mind this is only game #1. As indicated, the Patriots defense is solid. But usually, it takes the Patriots time to jell and by near season’s end that is when they are most dangerous.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
There is no more “Steelers killer” named Rob Gronkowski. He retired following the Super Bowl. Steelers Nation, you can now say WHEW. But does that mean New England’s offense all the sudden becomes dramatically more inept? Don’t count on it. Tom Brady still has a dangerous Sony Michel in his backfield with James White to spell him. Michel is coming off a fantastic rookie campaign that saw him rush for 931 yards.
On the receiving end, Julian Edelman is the primary weapon and as he plays the slot, Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton will be on defense for many of the expected slot patterns. Hilton described what he expects:
“He’s one of the top, if not the top slot guy in the league. So you know I’m excited for the challenge. I feel like I’m one of the better slot corners in the league, also, so I feel like it’ll be a competitive matchup. He reads coverages real fast. He sits in zones. Knows how to read defenses, break it down quickly. The connection him and Brady have, it’s right spot, right time, ball’s going to be there. Barbecue or mildew. Are you going to ball up and make plays or ... is it just not going to go well for you?”
Josh Gordon backs up Edelman and then on the other side is Phillip Dorsett. The New England Patriots have always played methodical football. They beat you with schemes and not big plays most of the time. They key to beating New England is obviously stopping their offense. While the Steelers defense blew leads on all three of the four AFC west division teams last year, this year’s version of the defense has a new look.
Returning the front line of Pittsburgh’s defense is Cameron Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. That’s pretty formidable in itself. But at linebacker, it won’t be long before top rookie Devin Bush moves past veteran Mark Barron on the depth chart and becomes a starter. But for now, Barron is coming off a Super Bowl appearance and a season that saw him register 53 sacks in 12 games. The other three spots are manned by Vince Williams on the right inside (and Williams says he is going to have his best season yet), Bud Dupree to the right outside, and of course T.J. Watt on the left outside.
Anthony Chickillo is a scrapper and a fine backup as is Tyler Matakevich both cut from the same mold. But at the right inside linebacker position keep your eyes open for Ulysees Gilbert III who was drafted in the sixth round this year and had jaws dropping in the preseason and during training camp.
In the secondary, Artie Burns survived training camp and saved his spot on the roster but he failed to win back his starting job which goes to veteran Steven Nelson coming in from the Kansas City Chiefs. Sean Davis, Joe Haden, and Terrell Edmunds round out the cornerback and safety positions. This defense should be solid and is absolutely being disrespected. That’s to Pittsburgh’s advantage.
The Steelers believe they can defeat New England on the road or at home. In last year’s meeting the Steelers prevailed at Heinz Field by a score of 17-10. The record speaks for itself unfortunately for Steelers fans because just like how Pittsburgh owns the Cleveland Browns, the Patriots have owned the Steelers for the last several seasons. In fact, New England has won seven of the last 10 meetings that includes a playoff loss in 2017. Prior to last year’s victory, the Patriots won five straight meetings.
The crowd in Foxboro is going to be LOUD, vocal, and in a frenzy from New England raising yet another championship flag one which puts them in a tie with the Steelers at six Super Bowl triumphs. Now the race is on to see who reaches seven first. It will be one of the most difficult atmospheres the Steelers have been in for a very long time.
My gut is telling me that the Steelers can do this. My brain speaks otherwise. When you are owned by a team, it’s hard to break out of the rut. I’m going to go the way of the gut and say the Steelers win a very close and toughly fought battle here and the start of proving all the naysayers wrong begins. Steelers 24 Patriots 21.
Now for my crystal ball selections on NFL week #1.
Green Bay at Chicago
I t all begins with ‘Da Bears. Green Bay strolls in with a new head coach the first time someone other than Mike McCarthy has been at the helm since 2006. That man is Matt LaFleur and he has the job of resurrecting the Pack and extending the NFL life of Aaron Rodgers getting him back to form. The Bears were a big surprise in 2018 and now it remains to be seen if they can have a repeat performance. For this game at least they should rise up. Bears 27 Packers 17.
Tennessee at Cleveland
The biggest question in the NFL for this season might be, how good are the Cleveland Browns…really? I say better but not a playoff team…yet. Opening at home against the very tough Titans, as much as I want a Tennessee victory just to prove that the Browns aren’t for real, I think they win this one. Browns 30 Titans 23.
Baltimore at Miami
Down in Miami, Ryan Tannehill is gone, Josh Rosen comes in and subsequently can’t beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting quarterback role. Baltimore is clearly the better team but I like the upset here. Dolphins 23 Ravens 17.
Atlanta at Minnesota
The Falcons are one team many are expecting to bounce back and be a playoff contender. I don’t buy it. Vikings 41 Falcons 21.
Buffalo at New York Jets
Fasten your seatbelts Steelers fans. We will all be focused on how Le’Veon Bell does in his debut. This guy cried about being overworked when in Pittsburgh now he wants the ball 500 times. He’ll have success wearing Green and White but I believe he will never achieve the yardage he had behind the Steelers offensive line. This Jets team is simply not that good. One man won’t make the team a winner no matter how great he is. But, the Bills are no better. Jets 28 Bills 14.
Washington at Philadelphia
With Alex Smith sidelined with a serious fractured leg injury, Case Keenum is the man on the spot with rookie Dwayne Haskins looking over his shoulder. The Eagles are prepared to make another run at the Super Bowl and it begins here. Philadelphia no longer has a quarterback controversy with Nick Foles in Jacksonville. Eagles 33 Redskins 14.
Los Angeles Rams at Carolina
The Panthers are another once playoff contending team looking to bounce back big in 2019. The Rams have a stifling defense that should get the job done on this day. Rams 24 Panthers 10.
Kansas City at Jacksonville
Many are picking the Chiefs as Super Bowl champions of the 2019 season. I’m not onboard with that. The Jaguars have a fantastic defense that hits hard and are ball hawks. Their offense with Nick Noles may not be much better than what it was with Blake Bortles. There just aren’t enough weapons. But I think defense will rule the day here. Upset special…Jaguars 20 Chiefs 17.
Indianapolis at Los Angeles Chargers
The Colts will near quickly about life without Luck. Andrew Luck has retired and that leaves Jacoby Brissett in charge. Good luck with that. Chargers 45 Colts 13.
Cincinnati at Seattle
The Steelers need not worry about the Bengals as a threat in their division this season. For that matter, no one in the NFL does. Cincinnati is not going to be a very good team. Even with a new coach in Zac Taylor it won’t matter. The Seahawks on the other hand are in the conversation for Super Bowl contenders in the NFC. Seahawks 47 Bengals 9.
New York Giants at Dallas
The question in New York is when does Daniel Jones take over for Eli Manning? A few New York losses and some bad performances from Manning and it’s on. It begins on this day. Cowboys 33 Giants 17.
Detroit at Arizona
It’s the Kyler Murray show. Overall number on pick Murray is the starter at quarterback although Brett Hundley did play well in the preseason. But the Cards are going with the kid with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury making his NFL debut. This could be Larry Fitzgerald’s final season and what might turn out to be a growing pains season for Arizona may just add more fuel to the fire for the great Fitzgerald to walk away from the game. Cardinals 24 Lions 21.
San Francisco at Tampa Bay
New head coaches are everywhere this season in the NFL and down in Tampa, former Steelers offensive coordinator and ex-cardinals head coach Bruce Arians takes over with the Bucs. Many are expecting him to get great production our of Jameis Winston and for the Niners, they are hoping for a rebound season from Jimmy Garoppolo. The better defense wins this one. Buccaneers 27 49ers 21.
Houston at New Orleans
As it has been for several years now, the opening of the NFL season treats us to TWO Monday Night Football games. The first is in New Orleans where the Saints are expecting nothing short of a Super Bowl appearance. For Houston they received a devastating blow when Lamar Miller went down and out for the season with a torn ACL. In comes former Brown Duke Johnson with Carlos Hyde backing him up. DeAndre Hopkins remains one of the best receivers in the league but the Saints are just too much. Saints 35 Texans23.
Denver at Oakland
What a way to close week #1 than to have the final game featuring the debut of Antonio Brown wearing something other than Black and Gold. For Raiders fans just get ready for the circus. I’m waiting patiently for A.B. to blow up on the field and in the locker room because Derek Carr did not get him the ball enough for made some type of mistake that involves Brown. Oakland will find out what it’s like to have a real locker room cancer for at least for their season opener, I like them to win this one. Don’t be surprised if Antonio Brown scores at least once and maybe more than starts showboating like he’s the greatest receiver in the league. But my expectation is that he is going to have a long season and not as a productive one that he is used to. Raiders 31 Broncos 21.
This week I’ll post some expert’s predictions for the Steelers/Patriots game but for now here’s a little taste:
NFL Week 1 underdog plays: Jags to stun Chiefs, Pats on upset watch
Alex Moretto, theScore.com
Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
Line: Patriots -5.5
There are few teams the public loves more than the Patriots. Despite bets flooding in on the Super Bowl champs, the line has shifted from a -6.5 open down to -5.5, and even at -5 in some spots. Books are expecting a big liability on the Pats this week, as the betting split should be even more lopsided by kickoff. There's nothing more predictive in betting than people chasing their Sunday losses with the prime-time favorite. Don't fall into the trap this week.
Ask anyone in the Steelers organization how excited they are to get this season underway, and you'll probably see a massive smile creep onto their face. The Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown drama is behind them, and they're a better team without those distractions. Ben Roethlisberger's toughness, James Conner's fighting spirit, and Juju Smith-Schuster's infectious personality define this team now. Pittsburgh can score with just about anyone, and an already underrated defense will be that much better after trading up to draft Michigan linebacker Devin Bush 10th overall in April. He's my pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Bill Belichick has been known to use September to evaluate his roster, and his offense has been hit by a couple of injuries. New England will struggle to move the ball here, and the line is more about public perception than the actual gap between these two teams.
Pick: Steelers +5.5
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