Pittsburgh Steelers

Steelers fans rejoice? Pittsburgh's perspective on Tom Brady leaving Patriots, AFC

Steelers fans rejoice? Pittsburgh's perspective on Tom Brady leaving Patriots, AFC

Editor’s note: In the coming weeks our Patriots insiders will be speaking with beat writers from around the NFL to get an outside view on what the future holds for the Patriots. Today’s team: The Pittsburgh Steelers with Ed Bouchette of The Athletic.

There are many AFC teams that probably were very happy to see Tom Brady leave the New England Patriots and join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in NFL free agency, and perhaps no fan base is more excited over his departure than that of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Why is that? Well, Brady has dominated the Steelers throughout his career.

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In 20 years with the Patriots, Brady posted a 9-3 record versus the Steelers with 3,744 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and five interceptions during the regular season. The veteran quarterback also beat the Steelers all three times he played against them in the playoffs. Each of those matchups came in the AFC Championship Game (2001, 2004, 2016).

"He's torched them, Tom, as you well know," The Athletic's Ed Bouchette recently told our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. "Starting in 2001 in that AFC title game, 2004, I don't know need to go down the list. (The Steelers) never beat him (in Foxboro). They didn't throw the parade yet, and they don't have the (Patriots) on the schedule this year, but I'm sure they're happy not to have played him again. If they meet him again, it would have to be in a Super Bowl with Tampa."

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Despite all of the pain and heartbreak Brady has caused Steelers fans over the years, they still have a healthy amount of respect for the six-time Super Bowl champion.

"I think there was a lot of respect for Tom Brady," Bouchette said. "They hated him because he beat them so much, beat them in key games, three AFC titles games he beat them in. For the most part, they are happy to see him go, the fans. Nobody on the Steelers is going to publicly say that, but (Brady) has been a nemesis for them, no doubt, just the way the Steelers of the 1970s maybe were a nemesis for the Houston Oilers."

The Steelers and Patriots both have won an NFL-record six Super Bowl titles. If not for Brady, the Steelers easily could have two or three more championship rings. Instead, both teams are in a fierce race to see who can claim a seventh Lombardi Trophy first.

NFL win totals: Best over and under bets after schedule release

NFL win totals: Best over and under bets after schedule release

Some may assume that the 2020 NFL schedule release won't have much of an impact on projected win totals for the upcoming season. After all, everyone already knew who each team was set to play against in 2020. So, the order in which the games are played shouldn't matter too much, right?

Wrong.

The schedule actually has a huge impact on picking win totals. The placement of bye weeks is one of the major factors. So too are stretches at the start of the season where it can be assumed that teams will be mostly healthy. So, if a team has a favorable stretch of opponents to open the year, the over may look better. But a few tough contests to start things off, or a brutal three to four-week span at any point in the season, could spell trouble.

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At the end of the day, it's impossible to predict everything right in the NFL. But for now, here are a few teams that are the best bets for the over and few that are solid bets for the under on their win totals.

All over/under totals are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Over Bets

1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Over 8.5 (-125). The Ravens and the Steelers have the two easiest schedules in the AFC. So, why aren't the Ravens listed here? Simple. Their win total is 11 while the Steelers' is 8.5. Both could exceed their numbers but for obvious reasons, but it will be easier for the Steelers to do that.

There aren't a lot of intimidating games on the Steelers' schedule besides the Ravens. Sure, the Browns and Bengals will always play hard against the rest of the AFC North. But the Steelers went 3-1 against them last year with Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges at quarterback. They should be in better shape with Ben Roethlisberger returning.

Elsewhere on the Steelers' schedule, games against the Titans, Eagles, Colts, and Bills could be challenging to some degree. But the Steelers should be favored at home more often than not and so long as Roethlisberger can stay healthy, they should have a chance to reach double-digit wins again.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Over 10 (-110). The Bucs have improved their offense greatly this offseason by adding Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to the fold. Will their additions translate to success on the field? Only time will tell.

But the Bucs have a favorable schedule in 2020. They have to take on some talented teams including the Saints (twice), Packers, Chiefs, and Vikings, but their games against the latter three are all at home, as is one of the Saints games. If they can at least go 3-2 in those games, they should have a good chance to eclipse the 10-win mark.

And if they beat the Saints in Week 1 at the Superdome, it's possible that they could go on a bit of an undefeated run to start the season. Their four games after playing the Saints are vs. Panthers, at Broncos, vs. Chargers, and at Bears. Those all are winnable but first things first, Brady will look to dispatch the Saints in the first week of the season.

3. Indianapolis Colts: Over 8.5 (-155). Yeah, the juice on this one isn't that great, but that's because it feels like a shoo-in that the Colts will win at least nine games. They were off to a good start last year before Jacoby Brissett got hurt and regressed. Philip Rivers should help them to find success as a bridge quarterback, especially considering how much better his blocking will be with the Colts compared to the Chargers.

The Colts have a very easy start to the season. They realistically could have a chance to beat their first seven opponents. Their toughest games will be against the Vikings (at home) and the Bears (on the road), but if the Colts offense can click early, the Jaguars, Jets, Browns, Bengals, and Lions are all beatable.

The second half of the year is less kind, including a brutal five-game stretch where they play the Ravens, Titans (twice), Packers, and Texans, but they should be able to squeeze a win or two out of that patch if all goes well.

This bet may be a bit sketchier if the win total goes up to 9, but we'd like it even at that number. The Colts just seem like a team that should earn a Wild Card bid in 2020.

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Under Bets

1. Houston Texans: Under 7.5 (-110). It's hard to find a team with a more brutal start to the season than the Texans. And while Deshaun Watson's presence should help them stay competitive, without DeAndre Hopkins, the team may have more trouble generating plays on offense.

The Texans get to take on the Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, and Vikings in the first four weeks. After that, they get a brief respite against the Jacksonville Jaguars before having to face the Titans and Packers, who played in the AFC and NFC Championship Game last season, before their bye week. So, it's possible that the Texans could go 1-6 to start the season.

Things get better for the Texans after their bye, but will the damage already be done? And they still do have to take on the Colts twice, the Patriots, the Titans, and the Bears. So, not all of their games are gimmes. Bill O'Brien has led the Texans back from a deficit before, but the task may be too tall for him this time around. 

2. Detroit Lions: Under 7 (-115). The number of seven for the Lions always felt high even if they were getting back a healthy Matthew Stafford. Their schedule isn't terrible, but it's hard to find close to seven sure-fire wins on there.

In the first half of the season, the Lions have to face the Bears, Packers, Cardinals, Saints, Jaguars, Falcons, Colts, and Vikings. The home game against the Bears should be winnable and so is the road game against the Jaguars. But the rest of the games? They're tossups at best.

And in the second half of the season, the Lions are set to take on the Buccaneers as well as the Bears, Packers, and Vikings again.

There are simply too many quality opponents on the Lions schedule to trust them. And if the team struggles out of the gate, Matt Patricia could find himself on the hot seat which will only create more problems for the team. So, it's best to bet against the Lions in 2020.

3. New England Patriots: Under 9 (-110). It's certainly conceivable that the Patriots could win 9 or 10 games this season. But two factors make it more of a possibility than a likelihood. First, the team has a brutal schedule highlighted by an early-season gauntlet that sees them face the Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Francisco 49ers in the first six weeks before playing six of their next eight games on the road. That's not easy for any team to deal with.

Secondly, Jarrett Stidham is in his first year as a starter, and he may have growing pains. And as our own Tom E. Curran pointed out recently, Stidham's growth could be stunted a bit by a lost offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So, even if the team believes that he could be the future of the franchise, trusting him to get this team double-digit wins doesn't seem like a great bet.

So, we'll favor the under for the time being even though betting against Bill Belichick hasn't proven to be a wise decision over the years.

Steelers star echoes a popular belief for why Tom Brady left Patriots

Steelers star echoes a popular belief for why Tom Brady left Patriots

No one aside from Tom Brady knows why the quarterback left the New England Patriots to join a historically inept Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise.

But there's a popular opinion among current and former players for why Brady skipped town.

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was the latest player to weigh in on Brady's free-agent decision Thursday on ESPN's "First Take."

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Here's Fitzpatrick's take:

I honestly wasn’t surprised. I think Tom is a competitor and I think he kind of wanted to prove that he could go somewhere else and do it, you know what I’m saying? 

... I just think he wanted to prove, not just to himself, but to the fanbase and the world that he could go somewhere without the great coaching, without the great defense the Patriots had and still have the same success.

If that answer sounds familiar, it's because guys like former Patriots Wes Welker and Willie McGinest, current Patriot Devin McCourty and retired New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning all saw the same thing: that Brady wanted a new challenge and a chance to prove he can be successful without Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Brady insisted to our Tom E. Curran that proving the doubters wrong isn't his first motivation in Tampa Bay, but it's hard to believe that's not part of the equation.

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The 42-year-old still carries a chip on his shoulder from being passed over 198 times in the 2000 NFL Draft, and despite his incredible achievements in New England, he's undoubtedly heard the snarky comments that he can't succeed without Belichick by his side.

If Brady can lift the moribund Bucs to prominence in the NFC, he'll certainly silence his few remaining critics. As for Belichick's Patriots? They have plenty of bulletin board material of their own.