PITTSBURGH (11-6) at NEW ENGLAND (15-4)
Thursday, 8:30 p.m., NBC
OPENING LINE – Patriots by 6 1/2
SERIES RECORD – Steelers lead 15-12
LAST MEETING – Patriots beat Steelers, 55-31, Nov. 3, 2013
AP PRO32 RANKING – Patriots No. 3, Steelers No. 8
STEELERS OFFENSE – OVERALL (2), RUSH (16), PASS (2).
STEELERS DEFENSE – OVERALL (18), RUSH (6), PASS (27).
PATRIOTS OFFENSE – OVERALL (11), RUSH (18), PASS (9).
PATRIOTS DEFENSE – OVERALL (13), RUSH (9), PASS (17).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – This is the third time the teams have met in the season opener. The last time, the Patriots won 30-14 in the Gillette Stadium opener in 2002. … The teams played in the AFC title game twice, in 2001 and ’04. The Patriots won both. … Each team won its division last season. … It’s Pittsburgh’s third time in the annual kickoff game since the format began in 2002. The Steelers beat Miami in 2006 and Tennessee in 2009. … While Patriots QB Tom Brady dodged a suspension, Pittsburgh All-Pro RB Le’Veon Bell is suspended for the first two games, and WR Martavis Bryant is out four weeks for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. … Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey is out until November at the earliest with a left ankle injury. … Brady is 5-2 against Pittsburgh and 2-0 in the playoffs. … The Patriots had won 10 straight season openers before losing at Miami last year. … The start would be Brady’s 109th in a row. He already had a streak of 128 straight games – the fifth longest in league history for a quarterback – that was snapped when he injured his knee in 2008. … The Patriots went 2-2 in the exhibition season. The Steelers were 1-4. … Look for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to throw even more and put up bigger fantasy points until Bell returns.
Scott Abraham’s Prediction – Patriots over the Steelers, 31-17