The latest Patriots vs Steelers odds for Thursday Night Football have Pittsburgh installed as 6-point favorites on the spread with a game total of 30 — a notable over/under as no NFL game has ever closed below 30. My NFL pick for this game is on the first-half spread.
The Patriots (2-10) enter NFL Week 14 on a five-game losing streak, a dismal stretch that’s seen New England average just 9.4 points per game. To add insult to injury, the Pats will be without star running back Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) against the fifth-ranked Pittsburgh defense, according to DVOA.
As for the Steelers (7-5), they’re coming off a loss to the Cardinals, a negative result compounded by the loss of quarterback Kenny Pickett (ankle). Mitch Trubisky will get the call in Pickett’s absence as the Steelers try to get back in the win column and maintain playoff positioning in the AFC.
Continue reading below for my Thursday Night Football preview and Patriots vs Steelers prediction.
Patriots vs Steelers Odds: Thursday Night Football
Thursday, Dec. 7
8:15 p.m. ET
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
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Patriots vs Steelers Prediction
When the Patriots Have the Ball
To say the Patriots offense has been struggling would be an understatement. They’ve scored 13 points over their last three games combined.
Mac Jones was playing so poorly that they were left with no choice but to turn to Bailey Zappe, which is certainly a downgrade. In limited action, Zappe’s underlying metrics have been even worse than Jones’.
Zappe ranks 44th (out of 45 qualified QBs) in success rate, ahead of only Tim Boyle. However, we do need to cut Zappe some slack considering his first start was in a rain-soaked game against the Chargers.
It’s worth noting that the Patriots have actually outgained their opponents by 52 yards a game over their last three contests. Their defense has also helped keep them competitive all season.
Rhamondre Stevenson has been ruled out, meaning Ezekiel Elliott will be the Pats’ lead back. I don’t anticipate too big of a drop-off as Elliott has played fairly well this year. He ranks 16th (out of 68 RBs) in success rate while Stevenson ranks 26th.
New England’s receiver injuries will likely have a bigger impact as Demario Douglas (concussion) has already been ruled out while DeVante Parker (knee) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (ankle) are both questionable.
It’s going to be tough for the Pats to move the ball and put up points once again.
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When the Steelers Have the Ball
Mitch Trubisky is starting for the injured Kenny Pickett and it’s a situation that doesn’t warrant the typical three-point drop-off from the average starting QB to an average backup. Pickett is a below-average starter while Trubisky is an above-average backup – I would say the drop-off is somewhere around a point.
RB Najee Harris (knee) and LG Isaac Seumalo (shoulder) are shaping up to be game-time decisions and their availability could be even more important in what should be a low-scoring game.
Seumalo is one of the better offensive linemen on the team, but when he was knocked out of last week’s game, Nate Herbig filled in nicely. Based on his limited snaps this season, Herbig might even be an upgrade. If Seumalo is ruled out, I don’t think we need to dock the Steelers at all.
For all of the offensive woes the Patriots have endured this season, their defense has been stout, particularly against the run, ranking second in rush DVOA.
This could pose a problem for the Steelers as they have the second-highest early down run rate in neutral situations. They likely want to lean on the run more given the short week and Trubisky starting, but that plays into a major strength of the Pats.
If Harris is unable to play or limited, it’s going to make it even more difficult for the Steelers to move the ball. Jaylen Warren is one of the more talented backup running backs, but this would be a tough spot for him to take on a full workload.
Let’s face it. This game ain’t pretty and should be a low scoring affair – we’ve seen the total drop below 30 at times at some books.
I mentioned the Patriots have only scored 13 points over their last three games, but according to our expected score model (that fuels our luck rankings), their expected score has been 14.5 PPG over their last three. They’ve actually been playing a bit better than actual output indicates.
I think New England’s stout run defense will help keep them in this game, especially early on, as it will counter what the Steelers want to do offensively.
This is also a Luck Rankings game with a Luck Difference of 27 and Luck Gap of 41%. Unlucky teams in games with a Luck Gap of at least 30% Week 13 or later are 27-7-2 ATS. That jumps to 15-1-1 (91.2%) ATS if that team is also on the road.
I think the move is to take the Pats at the key number of +3.5 for the first half.
The first-half total is only 14.5, which means points will be at a premium in the first half – and the game – so getting the +3.5 is going to be even more valuable.
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