Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:00 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
New England +218 over Pittsburgh
8:20 PM EST. It wasn’t that long ago that a New England Patriots versus Pittsburgh Steelers matchup in December would have playoff implications and be a potential AFC Championship preview, but gone are the days of Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, as Bailey Zappe and Mitchell Trubisky are set to take their spots under center to kick off Week 15. Officially, Zappe has not been named the starter (at the time of this writing), but his comments at practice did little to hide his poker face: “Coach has made it pretty clear to us, but I’ll let him announce it to everybody.
It’s hard to argue that Zappe doesn’t give the Pats the best chance to win at this point, as former first-round pick Mac Jones has regressed in 2023. Zappe has shown that he has greater vision downfield, and he’s more protective of the football. That said, Zappe took two sacks late in the game last Sunday against the Chargers that pushed the Patriots out of field goal range and severely limited their chances of scoring in that ugly 6-0 final. For his part, Zappe is saying all the right things, which at 2-10, is about all the Pats can ask for: “Control what you can control; that’s what we say around here. I’m not really big into those things. I’m really cool, calm, and collected.”
The Patriots stock has never been so low in the Bill Belichick era, as his team was flexed off Monday Night Football with the Chiefs of all teams because New England cannot be trusted to keep up its half of the bargain to present a competitive game. Putting up a goose egg at home last Sunday against the Chargers is not going to help with that perception and, in fact, might actually have sent the Patriots' stock further into the abyss. No team in the NFL has less market appeal than the Patriots right now. This is a team that has dropped five in a row, eight of nine and has scored 13 points combined in its last three games, which includes a loss to the Giants. When Brady was a Patriot, they scored 13 points in four minutes, not four games.
As for the Steelers, starting QB Kenny Pickett became the latest opening-day pivot to go down with a significant injury, joining the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, DeShaun Watson, and Anthony Richardson—all going down. Oh, and the Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence may have joined that group with a high ankle sprain on Monday night. Head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Pickett would not play this week very early in his team's preparations.
At 7-5, the Steelers are “in it” and have “something” to play for, while the perception is that the Patriots are going through the motions with B.B. looking for his next franchise QB with a high-end draft pick in April’s draft. That may be true, but there are 50+ players dressed in Patriots colors who have a ton of pride and are playing for their lives and careers. Why would anyone pull up now so that the Pats can improve their draft standing? You don’t think Zappe wants to impress and find his next landing spot? Hell, look what happened to the Steelers against the Cardinals on Sunday.
That 24-10 final flattered Pittsburgh, as Trubisky took his team into the endzone with four minutes to play in a game they were trailing by 21 points. Now, on short rest, the Steelers under Trubisky are being asked to cover a touchdown? That’s preposterous but we get it. The market wants nothing to do with the Patriots these days. Nobody wants to get behind a team that has scored 6, 7 and 0 points respectively over the past three weeks. They also put up a goose egg against the Saints and three points against the Cowboys earlier this year, That’s a total of 16 points covering five games. It’s ugly but lost in all of this is that New England’s defense has been stingy as hell and now they’re getting six points on a short week no less against a team that cannot move five yards with an over/under total of 30, which is one of the lowest totals in NFL history. We’re buying low and we’re checking all the boxes twice because Santa Claus is coming to town. Don’t be surprised if New England scores three TD’s and wins something like 24-3. Lots of folks are also going to be lured into taking the points and we couldn't blame you one bit if yiou did but at better than 2-1 and in a great spot, the Patriots to win outright is the way we're going.
New England +218 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 4.36)