Friday, October 7, 2022

Patriots at Steelers picks: Point spread, total, player props, trends for Week 2 AFC showdown

It’s been a minute since the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have faced one another. You’d have to go back to the 2019 season to see these two storied NFL franchises go toe-to-toe and, boy, have things changed since then. 

Both clubs have since moved on from their future Hall of Fame quarterbacks with Tom Brady leaving New England in free agency back in 2020 and Ben Roethlisberger retiring last offseason. Now, these clubs are in a bit of a rebuilding situation with Mac Jones entering his second year for the Patriots, while the Steelers trot out Mitchell Trubisky as first-round rookie Kenny Pickett develops behind the scenes. 

Last week, the Steelers were the ones who were able to move to 1-0, outlasting the Bengals in a wild overtime matchup. Meanwhile, the Patriots fell to 0-1 after managing just seven points in their opener against Miami. So, Pittsburgh will be looking to move to 2-0 while the Pats hunt for their first win of the new year.  

Below, you’ll find out how to watch this matchup, read a preview of these two clubs, and a betting breakdown to keep you sharp.

How to watch

Date: Sunday, Sept. 18 | Time: 1 p.m. ET

Location: Acrisure Stadium (Pittsburgh)

TV: CBS | Live stream: Paramount+ (click here)

Follow: CBS Sports App

Odds: Patriots -2, O/U 40.5

Preview

As we noted above, the Steelers were able to begin the year on a high note, beating the Bengals in overtime. However, that victory came at a cost as star pass rusher and reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt suffered a pectoral injury and is now on short-term IR. Second-year running back Najee Harris also suffered an injury in that win but looks like he’ll be fine to play in Week 2. That win over Cincinnati was largely sparked by Pittsburgh’s prowess on the defensive side of the ball as they gave quarterback Joe Burrow fits all afternoon, sacking him seven times and forcing him to commit five total turnovers. Even with Watt sidelined, they should still be able to apply pressure, which could be a critical X-factor in this game against the Patriots, who sport a spotty O-line. 

On the offensive side of the ball, Mitchell Trubisky didn’t exactly put the team on his back, but he didn’t shoot them in the foot either. He didn’t have a turnover on his Week 1 résumé and was able to lead the offense on a touchdown drive in the early stages of the second quarter to go up 17-3. If he can manage the game without coughing the ball up and get it into the hands of the plethora of playmakers that Pittsburgh has on offense, the offense should be fine. That said, the biggest weakness of that unit is the offensive line, so Patriots pass rusher Matthew Judon could be a game-wrecker here. 

In their opener against Miami, protection was one of the key issues for the Patriots as Jones was routinely under pressure and sacked twice. On one of those sacks, Jones fumbled and the ball was scooped up by the Dolphins and returned for a touchdown. Overall, this New England offense — now led by de-facto offensive coordinator Matt Patricia — is still trying to find its way. They had a couple of questionable play-calling instances in that loss to the Dolphins, but there was poor execution by the players on the field as well. Despite investing heavily into the pass-catching weapons, the Patriots still lack the type of player that can change the game on a single play, unlike the Dolphins, who enjoyed the electric play from both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in Week 1.

It’s also worth noting that Jones was a bit banged up after the opener and he underwent X-rays on his back. He also missed Thursday’s practice with an illness. 

Line movement

Latest Odds: Pittsburgh Steelers +2

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Back in the spring, this line opened with the Patriots sitting as a 1-point favorite. Heading into Week 1, that number did bump to Patriots -1.5, but did briefly come down to a pick’em amid last Sunday’s action. Now, it’s come up to Patriots -2, which may be a result of T.J. Watt’s injury. 

The pick: Steelers +2. Yes, Pittsburgh is without its best player in T.J. Watt, but I still think that they’ll be able to apply pressure on Mac Jones, who is playing behind a shaky offensive line. Not only that, but New England’s offense still hasn’t instilled enough confidence in me to back just yet. They also haven’t been a good bet on the road as of late. In the post-Brady era, the Patriots have covered just 38.9% of their road games (7-11 ATS). I’d much rather take the points and look for Trubisky to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers while playing in front of one of the better home-field advantages in the NFL. 

Over/Under total

This total opened at 43.5 but has only seen a decline since. It moved down a full point over the summer and continued its free-fall following Week 1 as it now stands at 40.5. 

The pick: Under 40.5. I don’t have a ton of confidence that both of these teams will be able to make it over the 20-point threshold on Sunday. This could end up being a rock fight of a game with both defenses imposing their will over poor offensive lines. New England is coming off a Week 1 showing where they scored just seven points and as for the Steelers, while they scored 23 as a team, the offense was responsible for just 16 points. The Under is also 4-0 in the Steelers’ last four home games.  

Mac Jones

  • Passing touchdowns: 1.5 (Over +143, Under -199)
  • Passing yards: 209.5 (Over -117, Under -117)
  • Passing attempts: 28.5 (Over -129, Under -106)

  • Longest pass completion: 34.5 (Over -111, Under -123)
  • Completions: 18.5 (Over -121, Under -113)
  • Interceptions: 0.5 (Over -119, Under -115)

While Jones and the Patriots’ offense currently don’t strike much fear in their opponents, the second-year quarterback has gone over this passing yards prop in 12 of his 18 career games. He is their best weapon offensively, so putting the ball in his hands should be the priority for Matt Patricia. Even without Watt applying pressure, banking on an interception is a solid way to lean here as well as it was last week. Jones has thrown at least one interception in 10 of his 18 career games. Pittsburgh is also hot off a four-interception performance against Joe Burrow in the opener. 

Mitchell Trubisky

  • Passing touchdowns: 1.5 (Over +139, Under -194)
  • Passing yards: 221.5 (Over -117, Under -117)
  • Rushing yards: 15.5 (Over +104, Under -142)
  • Passing attempts: 31.5 (Over -121, Under -113)
  • Longest pass completion: 33.5 (Over -104, Under -131)
  • Completions: 20.5 (Over -137, Under +100)
  • Interceptions: 0.5 (Over -142, Under +104)

Trubisky was not particularly efficient in the Week 1 win over the Bengals and completed just 55.3% of his passes. While he likely won’t drop back to pass 38 times as he did in the opener, he’ll likely still sit in the low 30s, especially if Najee Harris is limited at all in the running game. During his career as a starter in Chicago, he completed 64% of his passes and averaged right around this 20.5 completion mark. Meanwhile, Steelers quarterbacks completed an average of 25 passes per game last season. With that in mind, the Over on completions is one way to lean here. 

Player props to consider

Rhamondre Stevenson total rushing attempts: Over 9.5 (-106). The Patriots’ best area of attack on offense is arguably out of the backfield and Stevenson is one of the main reasons why. Last week he saw 10 touches (eight carries and two receptions), but it feels like New England could get him involved even more now with Ty Montgomery (knee) going on IR. Last season, Stevenson averaged 11.1 attempts per game and I expect him to be around that number again this week, which gets us over here.

Pat Freiermuth total receptions: Over 3.5 (-179). Patriots safety Kyle Dugger could limit Freiermuth’s impact in this game, but that doesn’t mean he won’t see volume in the passing game. In the opener, he was the second most targeted pass-catcher, seeing 10 throws come his way from Trubisky, and was able to bring in five of them. While a 50% catch rate isn’t anything to write home about, the target share is enticing. 

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