Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts will be the scene for the first Sunday Night Football game of the year, as the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots host one of their biggest AFC rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let’s take a look at the NFL Odds while making some predictions.
Steelers vs Patriots 2019 NFL Week 1 Odds, Preview & Prediction
Long Standing RivalryDuring the 2000’s these two teams have been bitter rivals. Their paths have crossed numerous times during the playoffs. The Patriots have defeated the Steelers in the AFC title games in 2001, 2004, and 2016. After defeating Pittsburgh in those three seasons, the Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl. All in all, these two teams have met 32 times, with the series being tied at 16-16.
This year’s game will have a little different feel, as the Steelers no longer have two of their top offensive weapons. In the offseason, wide receiver Antonio Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders, while running back Le’Veon Bell signed with the New York Jets as a free agent. Ben Roethlisberger will still be under center, but he will have different offensive weapons at his disposal.
Patriots New LookThe New England Patriots have changed their offensive philosophy in recent years. With Tom Brady aging, the Patriots have gone more to the running game. In 2018, the Patriots ranked 5th in the NFL in rushing. The Patriots have depth at the running back position, as they are led by Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead. They also drafted Damien Harris out of Alabama to contribute to the rushing attack. Although White doesn’t see a lot of handoffs, he is a huge pass-catching option out of the backfield. Look for the Patriots to try to establish the run game early on.
Even though Tom Brady is aging, Josh McDaniels still likes to give Brady plenty of passing downs as well. The Patriots receiving group is a little uncertain right now. Julian Edelman should be ready for the opener, but he missed some time in training camp with a thumb injury. Josh Gordon, who was recently reinstated by the NFL, didn’t have a full training camp. N’keal Harry was placed on Injured Reserve, and Demaryius Thomas was released. Factor all of that in with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, and relatively inexperienced tight end replacements, and the passing game could be a weakness this season.
Defensively, the Patriots have built a strong unit. Their line play will be very strong, and they have a very talented group of linebackers. They have an experienced secondary that will be led by Stephon Gilmore. If this group can stay healthy, the Patriots should have a very good defensive unit.
Steelers Also Look DifferentAs for the Steelers, even though they lost two key offensive players, they will still have a very talented offensive group. They have a very strong and experienced offensive line that should be able to open up some holes. James Conner had a great season that was cut short due to injury. Conner missed almost four games, and nearly hit the 1,000 yard rushing total. While he was out, Jaylen Samuels played well. Both of these backs can also catch passes out of the backfield.
Big Ben will still have some weapons in the passing game. He is now 37, but he can still scramble around and make things happen. JuJu Smith-Schuster had a breakout 2018 season, with 111 receptions and 1,426 yards. With free agent signee Donte Moncrief, along with James Washington and tight end Vance McDonald, Roethlisberger will stay have viable receiving threats.
Defensively, the Steelers get after it. They led the NFL with 52 sacks last season. Their defensive line will create havoc for Tom Brady, and will free up their athletic group of linebackers to make plays. The secondary will be led by Joe Haden.
Great NFL OpenerThis game will be an exciting one from start to finish. Two teams that are always in the playoff hunt will be playing a prime time game on opening weekend. The Patriots are 4-1 all-time in season openers after winning the Super Bowl.
They have won nine of their last ten home openers on opening weekend. With all of that being said, all signs point to the Patriots winning this one and extending their 14-straight regular season game home winning streak.