Even though they don’t play in the same division, the rivalry between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers has been one of the NFL’s best over the past few years. The 2013 matchup, however, might not have the same importance as recent seasons.
The Patriots enter Week Nine in sole possession of first place. At 6-2, their lead in the AFC East is as big as any divisional lead in football. The Steelers, who have made the playoffs in eight of the last 12 years, are quickly falling out of contention. Their 2-5 record has them in last place and three games out of first.
While New England has had much more success, both teams have struggled to score. The Steelers and Patriots rank 28th and 17th, respectively, in points per game. The Steelers haven't put up more than 19 points since September, and Tom Brady was held to just 116 passing yards last week.
Brady has not been as effective as he has been in previous seasons. The veteran is on pace to throw for 18 touchdowns, which would be his lowest total since he became the full-time starter in 2001. The Patriots are just 15th in total yards this season. Still, the New England offense should not be underestimated.
"You can pick apart his numbers, but the only one that matters is 6-2," safety Ryan Clark said. "When you give Tom Brady a chance to win a football game, he's going to do it."
The Steelers are having their worst season in the last decade, but it’s not because of their defense. Pittsburgh has done a good job of shutting down opposing offenses, allowing 21 points or less in all but two games. They have been especially dominant against the pass, allowing 181 yards per game through the air. Only the Houston Texans give up fewer passing yards each game.
"They have a good defense and the way we've been playing offensively, we can't be up and down like we've been," Brady said. "We have to be more consistent. Hopefully this is our best week to be able to do that."
Las Vegas Betting Odds: New England favored 6.5 points
Over-Under: 43.5 points
Kickoff Time: 4:25 PM Eastern Time
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket Max
Prediction: New England 23, Pittsburgh 17