Sunday’s Key Storylines
1. No. 2 Offense vs No. 1 Defense: The New England Patriots enter Sunday’s game with the No. 2 scoring offense in the National Football League, putting up 27.4 points per game. The Steelers counter with the league’s No. 1 ranked defense, giving up 15.4 points per game (total of 123 pts, lowest in the NFL).
2. Life without Moss: The New England Patriots are 3-1 without Randy Moss. In the win column, they haven’t missed him much after going 3-1 with Moss in the lineup to open the season.
However, the Patriots have taking a significant hit statistically when it comes to life without Randy.
With Moss out of the picture, the Patriots are averaging 10.8% less points per game than they did with Moss in the lineup. The Patriots have gone from averaging 32.8 ppg in their first four games to 22.0 points per game in their last four games.
3. Dink & Dunk: One of the more intriguing things to watch is the Patriots dink and dunk passing game versus the Steelers pass defense that gives up dink and dunk passing plays regularly as their focus is on limiting the vertical passing game.
Since Randy Moss was traded, the Patriots vertical passing has been nearly non-existent. Tom Brady is averaging just 6.49 yards per pass in his last four games.
The lack of a vertical deep threat has also neutralized Wes Welker in his past 4 games. | Week 6: 7 REC – 53 YDS | Week 7: 4 REC – 25 Yds | Week 8: 3 REC – 24 Yds | Week 9: 4 REC – 36 Yds |
4. Steelers run at history: The Steelers made history Monday night becoming the first team to hold their opponents to under 75 yards rushing in their first 8 games of the season.
The Steelers are giving up just 2.64 yards per attempt against the run and are on pace to beat the 2000 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens record of 2.69 yards per attempt in what is regarded as one of the greatest defenses in the history of the game.
Pittsburgh is giving up just 58.3 yards per game against the rush.
Will the Patriots be a tough test for the Steelers? Pittsburgh will be without starting defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel and going up against one of the best offensive lines in the league.
The Patriots have been solid at running the ball, averaging 4.12 per attempt but they are not spectacular in the running game.
5. Struggling Pass Defenses: The New England Patiots come into Sunday’s game with one of the worst pass defenses in recent memory. According to pro-football reference, The Patriots rank 29th in the NFL against the pass, giving up a total of 2,151 yards through the air and opposing passers are completing a remarkable 70.1% of their passes against New England through the air.
Just how bad are those numbers?…. According coldhardfootballfacts.com, the 2007 Detroit Lions (70.20) are the only team in the entire history of the NFL, to have allowed opposing passers to complete more than 70 percent of their passes over the course of an entire season:
The Pittsburgh Steelers pass defense has also struggled mightily at times this season. The Steelers are 24th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 1,920 yards through the air and quarterbacks are completing 67.2 percent of their passes against Pittsburgh.
That is the fifth highest completion rate against the pass in the NFL, just behind New England (70.1), Jacksonville Jaquars (67.7), Atlanta Falcons (67.7) and Houston Texans (67.7).
6. Roethlisberger vs Patriots passing defense: Many are predicting a big day through the air for Ben Roethlisberger despite a rebuilt left side of the offensive line.
The Patriots are giving up 7.6 yards per attempt through the air and a 70.1 completion percentage.
Roethlisberger is averaging 8.41 yards per attempt, which is slightly above his impressive career average of 8.02 yards per attempt, which according to coldhardfootballfacts.com, is 5th All-Time.
What remains to be seen is if the Steelers increase Roethlisberger’s work load. He has not thrown 30+ passes in his first four games back.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall will be featured in Sunday’s game going up against New England’s 19th ranked rush defense that is giving up 117.6 yards per game.
7. Brady’s dominance against Steelers: Tom Brady may no longer have Randy Moss at his disposal but that won’t stop him from maintaining his status as one of the elite quarterbacks in the game.
One thing that will be in the back of Steelers fans minds is Brady’s dominance against the Steelers.
Brady is 5-1 against Pittsburgh in his career and he has haunted the Steelers in the past. In his career against Pittsburgh, Brady has thrown 143 completions in 213 pass attempts for 1,658 yards, 11 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.8%.
Brady’s only loss against Pittsburgh was a 34-20 regular season loss in week 8 of the 2004 season.
Brady is averaging 385.5 yards per game passing in his last two starts against Pittsburgh and Dick LeBeau’s defensive scheme.