ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL??!?!?!?
After a long offseason of overpaid signings, jaw breaking locker room action, court cases, and musical quarterbacks, we finally get back to some actual football. The new season brings optimism to all the fan bases and we all look forward to some friendly banter for all to enjoy.
The 2015 NFL Season kicks off this year the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots host the 2014 AFC North Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. After the most tumultuous off season that any Super Bowl Champion in recent history has witnessed, the 2015 New England Patriots enter the season with a revamped defense and a renewed sense of “Us Against the World”. On the other side of the field, the Pittsburgh Steelers begin the post-Dick LeBeau/Troy Polamalu era with major questions on the defensive side of the ball.
As the Patriots start their quest for their seventh Super Bowl appearance in the Brady/Belichick era, let’s make futile attempt to be non-bias and break both teams in key areas to see how they will match up and which one may have the key to victory.
Quarterback – Patriots: A motivated Tom Brady is probably the last thing that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense wanted to see. Though Ben Roethlisberger may have a decent day against the Patriots Defense, Brady should have the edge here. Side Note: Ben Roethlisberger has never beaten a Brady led Patriots team in Foxboro.
Running Backs – Push: With both starting running backs serving suspensions, the Steelers and Patriots are turning to other options that are significantly less capable than their starters. The Steelers do have speedster Dri Archer and oft injured DeAngelo Williams but the Patriots are experts at utilizing multiple running backs to augment their passing game.
Wide Receivers – Push: With the unknown status of Julian Edelman and the suspension of Pittsburgh’s Martavis Bryant, both wide receiver corps are short handed going to Game 1. There is a significant drop off in talent after Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown while the Patriots have several serviceable options in their passing game.
Tight Ends – Patriots: There are few teams that have a tight end that is as capable as Rob Gronkowski. One thing is for sure: the Steelers are not one of them.
Offensive Line – Push: When healthy, both the Patriots and the Steelers have capable offense lines. However, with the loss of loss of Steelers Maurkice Pouncey and the relative youth of the middle of the Patriots’ line, there is no clear cut advantage for either team.
Defensive Front Seven – Patriots: The Steelers may be on route to having a historically bad defense and it all starts in the Front Seven. The Patriots, on the other hand, have depth on their defensive line and some solid players in the linebacker corps.
Secondary – Patriots: The Steelers may actually be one of a handful of teams who have a worse secondary than the Patriots….which is saying a lot.
Special Teams – Patriots: Out goes Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham and enter in Josh Scobee for the Black and Gold…enough said.
Coaching – Patriots: Mike “Lando” Tomlin vs. Bill “The Dark Lord of the Sith” Belichick? This deal keeps getting worse all the time.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Key’s to Victory:
- Forgetting 2014 and focus on 2015: The 2014 Patriots were the youngest team to the Super Bowl. How this team responds to success may be critical to their success in 2015. With opening night in Foxboro comes the unveiling of the fourth Super Bowl banner which is exactly the thing that Bill Belichick wants his team to forget. Additionally, the off the field distractions of Deflate Gate has been looming over the Patriots since the AFC Championship game earlier this year. This has, unfortunately, made the off season celebration more somber than usual. The question remains if the Patriots, specifically Tom Brady, can stay focused on the task at hand and put all the off field distraction behind them.
- Don’t abandon the Running Game: With LeGarrette Blount out for Week 1, the Patriots are faced with having only Brandon Bolden and a group of unknown characters to use against the Steelers. Though the Patriots have been a pass first team, they must stay patient with the running game to keep the Steelers Defense honest.
- Patience with the Passing Game: Over the last few seasons the Patriots offense has started off slowly but has improved as the season progressed. This has been due to various reasons including the turnover of wide receivers, changes in the offensive line, and the health of Rob Gronkowski. This season starts off in similar fashion with training camp and preseason injuries carrying over in the regular season. The Patriots must remain patient if they struggle early in the game to move the ball through the air even if it is against a weak Steelers Defense.
The NFL could not have asked for a better opening night matchup with two of the most successful franchises of the 21st Century. Between the two teams, they have represented the AFC in 9 out of the last 14 Super Bowls. From a historical standpoint, the Patriots and Steelers have met 10 times since 2001 with the Patriots leading the series 7-3 during that time. Their last meeting in 2013, the Patriots upended the Steelers 55-31 by outscoring Pittsburgh 28-3 in the fourth quarter.
Both teams kickoff the 2015 season at less than 100% but a motivated Tom Brady coupled with a sub-par Steelers defense would give everyone the impression that this could be a long night for Pittsburgh. The score could be a lot closer than everyone expects though.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 26 – Pittsburgh 21