Pittsburgh at New England (-6.5)
One of the premier rivalries in football for more than a decade has been reduced to the undercard, as the largely star-less but 6-2 Patriots host the hugely disappointing 2-5 Steelers.
Pittsburgh appeared to regain its footing with back-to-back October wins over the Jets and Ravens, but then stumbled at Oakland last week. The Steelers are in the midst of what could be their worst season since the pre-Chuck Noll 1960s.
The Patriots victory machine continues to hum along, meanwhile, despite a poor statistical season by Tom Brady and the offense: No. 24 in Real QB Rating; No. 26 in Offensive Passer Rating; No. 31 in Real Passing YPA.
Brady, despite the poor overall numbers and in his typically victorious Hall of Fame style, has not coughed up those critical mistakes that so often cost teams games, especially those playing on the statistical margin.
The Patriots have also been buoyed by the team’s best pass defense since 2006: No. 3 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 4 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 4 in Defensive Passing YPA.
That defense spells trouble for Ben Roethlisberger and Pittsburgh’s ineffective offense, which has been no better than mediocre this year in the passing game.
The Steelers also can’t run the ball (No. 30 in Offensive Rusher Rating) and they are weighted down by one of the worst offensive lines in football (No. 30 on the Offensive Hog Index).
The Steelers have lost both their games against Quality Opponents (Bengals, Bears) by double digits, while the Patriots also enjoy big advantages on both the Relativity Index and the Intelligence Index.
Pick: New England 24, Pittsburgh 14