AFC Championship Game predictions
AFC Championship Betting Tips
As Tom Brady and Bill Belichick try to reach their seventh Super Bowl together—that is not a typo—people are asking a weird question entering the AFC Championship: Are the New England Patriots as good as they’re supposed to be?
This inquiry is borne from a mostly cupcake regular-season schedule that didn’t even look harrowing during the four games in which Brady was suspended by the NFL. The ease of the schedule extended into the playoffs as well, against a Houston Texans squad that, if not for playing in a shoddy division, wouldn’t belong in the postseason. The Patriots throttled them 34-16, and while most try to make it seem like they were a heartbeat away from letting the Texans have a chance, the outcome of the game was never truly in doubt.
Facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, of course, is a different animal.
The Steelers enter Sunday ranking 10th in both points scored and allowed per game. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit his stride toward the end of the regular season, and the defense proved once again in the Divisional Round victory over the Kansas City Chiefs that it’s built to win absolute slug fests.
But let’s not pretend the Steelers offense has proved it can torch elite defenses. They struggled to hang points on the board against the Chiefs, tallying an unimpressive 18. New England’s defense is statistically better than Kansas City’s; it ranks first in points allowed per game and has been the understated fulcrum of the team’s success to this point.
In the end, this is what makes the Patriots so damn dangerous: The offense doesn’t need to be its usual self.
We can talk about Brady being 39 years old, about him being past his prime and about him being inconsistent at different stages over the course of the year. The fact is, though, the offense is still third in points per game, and he has still helped the Patriots notch 30 or more points in four of their last five games—including last week against an oft-celebrated Texans defense.
And yet, Brady, along with the rest of the Patriots’ offense needn’t be perfect to pick up wins. They have the NFL’s best defense on which to fall back, a luxury no other top-seven offense enjoyed this season.
Now add in home-field advantage. In the six games Brady has been under center on the Patriots’ turf, including last week’s bout with Kansas City, New England has outscored opponents by 90 total points. That’s an average of 15 points per contest, even when factoring in their home loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
So let’s not be tricked into thinking that things have changed in New England—especially when the Patriots thoroughly picked apart the Steelers in the only game these two played on October 23. Pittsburgh, of course, didn’t have Big Ben for that contest, but he alone won’t make up the 11-point difference.
Not when the New England Patriots are, in fact, as good as they are supposed to be.
The Pick: New England Patriots (-6), overMore articles...