The clash of the AFC takes place at Heinz Field at 4:25pm ET on Sunday December 16th, 2018 as the Pittsburgh Steelers look to bounce back with a much needed win against the New England Patriots. For these two teams a normal meeting during the regular season has become a normal trend with both teams dominating year in and year out in the AFC. Now on Sunday both teams are in search of a win help solidify their playoff picture in the AFC conference.
After losing a disappointing contest in Miami last weekend against the Dolphins on the last second “Miami Miracle”, the Patriots need a win on Sunday to keep their hopes alive for a first round bye in the NFL playoffs as well as an outside shot at taking home the top record in the AFC. Along with the loss the Patriots offense has struggled over the past few weeks failing to top the 30 point mark in three previous contests (2-1 over that stretch).
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh the Steelers are looking to stop their losing trend after losing three straight contests after winning six straight contests. Once a near lock to take home the AFC North title is now on a verge of missing the playoffs barring a few key wins down the stretch. For the Steelers, on Sunday the return of James Connor to the teams rushing attack should open up the team’s offense in a game they must win at home.
Here are the keys to the game for both the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers matchup on Sunday December 16th, 2018 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
NFL Keys to the Game
New England Patriots – Step up on Defense
The Patriots continue to put wins on the board during the 2018 NFL Schedule, that said the team has seen their one prolific offense slow down a bit causing the team to rely on their defense on late. While Tom Brady is only a few plays away from turning the offense around, on Sunday the Patriots defense will be called upon early and often to slow down a Steelers offense that has the ability to put up a ton of points. Over the past four Patriots contests the Defense allowed 34 points in two contests (both losses) as well as just 13 and 10 points (both wins). If the team can limit Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown to make plays the Patriots should push their record to 10-4 on the year.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Capitalize on all Aspects of the Game
The 2018 NFL Season has been a whirl wind season for the Steelers who started with a 1-2-1 record over their first four contests before winning six straight before losing their last three. Over their five losses and one tie this season the Steelers have failed to capitalize on all aspects of the game including on the offense and defensive side of the ball as well as with their kicking game. In their last three losses, Chris Boswell is just two of five including two crucial kicks against the Oakland Raiders last weekend. Along with those struggles the team has struggled to find a running game of late as James Connor has battled injuries. On Sunday the team will need all three phases to put together a big game if they want to pick up the win against the Patriots.
NFL Betting Trends
New England Patriots - The Patriots enter this contest as a slight favor despite the trip to Heinz Field. For sports handicappers this season the team has been fairly inconsistent at teams despite posting a solid 8-5 record against the spread. Much of their struggles have come on the road as the team with all four of their losses coming on the road (3-4). In those road contests the Patriots have covered the spread in just three of those contests. Despite those struggles the team has covered the spread in seven of their last 10 overall contests. The Patriots have also dominated against the spread in December covering the spread in nine of their last 11 contests in the month as well as in their last four contests during week 15.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Much like the Patriots, the Steelers have been fairly inconsistent this season for sports handicappers as they have played to just a 6-6 record against the spread. Along with the 6-6 record against the spread the Steelers are just 3-3 at home while covering the spread in just three of their first six home contests. The team has also covered the sprad in just three of their last 10 overall contests at Heinz Field and just one of their last eight contests in December. Despite the struggles the Steelers have shown their ability to respond covering the spread in six of their last eight contests following an outright loss.
Head 2 Head – As you look at these two teams despite both being top tier teams in the AFC while facing off nearly each season, the Patriots have dominated of late covering the spread in four of their last five overall meetings as well as in five of their last six meetings at Heinz Field including meetings during both the regular season and playoffs.
What’s next for these two teams?
New England Patriots – The Patriots return home to finish out the regular season with a key matchup against the Buffalo Bills on December 23rd at 4:25pm ET before a final contest against the New York Jets on December 30th, 2018.
Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers will make a difficult trip down south to take on the New Orleans Saints on December 23rd at 4:25pm ET before finishing the regular season up against the Cincinnati Bengals at home on December 30th, 2018.