What NFL experts are predicting for Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game

Most pundits are picking the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.

Grounds crew paint finishing touches on the field at Gillette Stadium Wednesday in Foxborough. The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the New England Patriots Sunday night in Week 1. –AP
COMMENTARY

It’s been seven months since we’ve had a parade. Awful.

Remember, as recently as May, when we were still basking in the potential of the first Grand Slam in American professional sports? The Red Sox had already secured the World Series the previous October, the Patriots had won the Super Bowl in February, and it was only a matter of waiting to see if the Celtics and Bruins could complete the improbable.

Except, the Celtics were even more dysfunctional than we had originally thought, and the Bruins only came out on top by producing an even bigger gag job than the one they suffered at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. The Red Sox, meanwhile, are a bloated mess in their aim to repeat, a matter that’s about as likely as Dave Dombrowski winning MLB Executive of the Year.

So as we reset the parameters, it’s safe to bet that the Slam isn’t in our immediate future, a shame for Boston sports fans who have had to suffer through years where only one team — maybe two — hoist a trophy at season’s end.

Here come the Patriots, who weren’t even that good last year, defending what was their sixth Super Bowl title. They’ll raise another banner Sunday night at Gillette. They’ll probably have another one ready for next year at this time. Maybe beyond that as well.

The Slam is dead. The Patriots are not. They never are.

They probably never will be.

This week’s picks

Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Steelers 27, Patriots 23. “The Steelers have never beaten Tom Brady in Gillette Stadium (0-5). Heck, they’ve never even intercepted him there. And the Patriots are coming off another Super Bowl. But the Chiefs beat them there in the season opener after the Patriots’ fifth Super Bowl victory, so it can be done. Maybe this is the year.”

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 34, Steelers 27. “Season’s first Sunday nighter fittingly gets the Game of the Week and the reigning champion Patriots. There is an argument for Pittsburgh here (and thus for a great game). Steelers beat Pats at home 17-10 last December, and have done a fabulous job hardly missing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown at all. Tom Brady moves on without Gronk but will miss injured center David Andrews even more. There is a big chance the Steelers’ rush will really bother Brady. On the other hand: It’s Bill Belichick and Brady. At home. In prime time. There is magic at Foxborough. Have you not heard? Nuevo England has won nine of past 10 home openers and is on a 16-0 run (13-3 against the spread) as home favorites. The most stress-free play in the NFL is Pats at home. By the way, these two teams are 1-2 in NFL wins over the past 10 seasons, but the Pats are a big 20 better, 123-103. Until you hear otherwise, continue to trust Brady and the Pats at home more than you trust your best friend.”

ESPN staff: Eight out of nine pick the Pats.

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 31, Steelers 23. This is the game of the week, and both teams need it badly – the Pats for seeding and the Steelers to keep pushing for a division title. New England has owned the Steelers and Tom Brady has been sensational against them. With Ben Roethlisberger hurting, I think the Patriots will win another as Brady has a big day.

CBS Sports staff: Split (New England -6). Everybody picks the Pats straight-up.

Joe Giglio, NJ.com: Steelers (+6). “This line feels big for a Patriots team without Rob Gronkowski and incorporating a rookie into the pass catching group. The Steelers are more placid, and likely better, without the noise from Bell and Antonio Brown.”

Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times: Patriots (-5.5). “The Steelers are good enough to make the spread a bit insulting, but betting against Brady and the Patriots in prime time is a fool’s errand.”

MMQB staff: Seven out of eight pick the Patriots.

Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots (-5.5). “The Patri*ts are, of course, cheaters. Factually, they have been caught cheating on multiple occasions, and have been credibly accused (but not disciplined for) all sorts of other chicanery, like in 2015, when the Steelers’ headsets didn’t work at Gillette Stadium, but somehow the Patriots were still allowed to use theirs. With a full offseason to think up new and exciting ways to cheat, the Patri*ts should be able to generate some kind of unfair advantage in this important AFC matchup.

Todd Haislop, Sporting News: Patriots 28, Steelers 24. “These are the teams that probably still feel they were robbed of the Thursday night season-opening stage (and therefore a long week for extra rest), so they’ll have to settle for the Sunday night stage (and less rest), instead. The Steelers and Patriots are similar in that they’re tasked with replacing star power and production this season, and both are built to rely more on their running games as opposed to their aging quarterbacks. Of course, if a team has to be stuck with an aging passer, the GOAT will do just fine.”

Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 23, Steelers 20. “The Patriots will get their latest rings against their AFC rivals at home, which will inspire them to avoid any sort of hangover. The Steelers finally won this matchup in an ugly, low-scoring game (17-10) in December. With each team losing a familiar go-to receiver (Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski), the defenses should remain a little ahead of the offenses coming out of the gate. The Patriots will steal it from the Steelers on a late field goal as Tom Brady answers Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter.”

Michael Hurley, CBS Boston: Patriots (-5.5). “I recognize that the Steelers beat the Patriots during a New England low point last December, but 5.5 points? Are we not familiar with Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger in Foxboro against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? It’s … a bloodbath.”

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 27, Steelers 24. “Two years ago, the Patriots lost to the Chiefs on the night they hung a banner. Bill Belichick won’t let that happen a second time.”

Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 31, Steelers 21. “The Steelers won’t miss Antonio Brown off the field, but they’ll miss him on the field. The Patriots, on the other hand, are well-equipped to adjust to the absence of Rob Gronkowski. I like the Patriots to win this one with their passing game.”

USA Today staff: Six out of seven pick the Patriots (-5.5).

MassLive staff: All Pats. “Every time these two aging quarterbacks square off for another potential classic, it’s fair to wonder how many more times it will happen. Nobody would be surprised if these two teams tangle again in January.”

FiveThirtyEight: Patriots with a 68 percent chance of winning.

Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Patriots 19, Steelers 17. “Tomlin’s group is flying high after a productive camp where rookie Devin Bush emerged, Pittsburgh’s strong defensive line stayed healthy and the team’s young secondary talent stepped up. The Patriots should be similarly optimistic about their defense’s prospects with a potential hotshot new play-caller named Bill Belichick and the deepest linebacker group and secondary since Willie McGinest patrolled the field. The Patriots love to accumulate information and find advantages within. Week 1 has the smallest body of work to learn from. Those were the many reasons the Steelers are dangerous, yet picking against Brady in Foxborough remains a fool’s errand.”

It says here: Patriots 27, Steelers 13. What will Mike Tomlin’s excuse be this time?

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