NFL Game Preview Week 1: New England Patriots Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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The NFL season opener is less than 24 hours away. Defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots (0-0) are set to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0) at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 P.M. EST on Thursday evening.

Aside from the constant buzz surrounding the Patriots organization regarding quarterback Tom Brady‘s suspension – and soon his suspension being nullified entirely – the two teams are set to take action in Foxborough, Massachusetts.


New England Patriots

The Patriots organization has been preparing their season with the mentality that their starting quarterback in Brady would not be eligible to play. Good news for them and their fans, Brady will be playing in Week 1 against the Steelers.

The Patriots have had tremendous success in Gillette Stadium. Since Brady has been under center, the Patriots have a 90-15 winning record at home.

During this game there will be notable players missing due to suspensions and injuries; some may be mentioned later. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount will be serving his one-game suspension due to abusing the league’s substance-abuse policy.

In addition to Blount missing, it has been reported that the Patriots will not be with their starting center in Bryan Stork due to a concussion; he has been placed on the short-term injury reserve with a designation to return.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers will be without several key players for the start of their season as well. Running back Le’Veon Bell will be serving his two-game suspension due to him abusing the league’s substance-abuse policy; the same incident Blount was involved in.

In addition to Bell, the Steelers will also be missing wide receiver Martavis Bryant due to Bryant violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Bryant would appeal the suspension, but would fail.

Key Points:

The Patriots and Steelers are meeting for the 28th overall time. Since 2002, the Patriots have favored this series with a 7-3 record. In addition, the last time these two teams met in the season opener was in 2002 in which the Patriots defeated the Steelers 30-14; this was the same year the Patriots were defending their Super Bowl season.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is no snub when it comes to a conversation regarding tremendous quarterbacks. As for the Steelers, they will be facing a different looking Patriots defense from the previous season due to the departures of the iconic Vince Wilfork as well as Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Browner. Aside from that, the Steelers will need to do a good enough job to provide Roethlisberger with enough time in the pocket. With each moment added to Roethlisberger’s tendencies, wide receiver Antonio Brown can create space against the questionable Patriots secondary.

Defensively, the Steelers need to provide pressure on Brady and the offensive line to limit the amount of time recievers Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have to see the open field. In addition to applying pressure, the Steelers need to jam Gronkowski at the line to slow him down. Odds are a young linebacker will be responsible, therefore we could see the Patriots exploit this matchup.

As for the Patriots, having Brady comes at ease. As stated earlier, exploiting the mismatch with Gronkowski can prove to be evident in the game. Defensively, the Patriots will need to solidify their questionable secondary with valiant efforts from Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler and captain Devin McCourty. If their front seven is capable of doing what many expect, Roethlisberger should be forced out of the pocket on several occasions.

Deciding Factors:

The first game of the 2015 season will live to the expectations that are being set for it. The absence of their high-caliber back in Bell and explosive wide reciever Bryant will be too much for the Steelers to overcome. Especially being on the road in Gillette. With Brady back, and providing an effort to prove everyone wrong due to the insane off-season, we can only assume what could be done, as what was done in 2008.

Prediction: New England Patriots 28 Pittsburgh Steelers 20