How Will the Patriots Offense Attack the Steelers on Sunday?

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Finally, football has come back to Gillette Stadium!  If you're a wrestling fan, read that line like The Rock for some added effect.  If you have no clue what I'm referring too, it doesn't matter, the bottom line is that football is back.

Photo courtesy of Associated Press
Shortly after New England officially closes the book on the 2018-19 season by unveiling their Super Bowl LIII championship banner, they will kickoff their title defense against a familiar opponent in the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One of the more intriguing questions heading into Sunday - at least for me - is how the Patriots plan to approach this game offensively?  Are we going to see the team that we saw towards the tail end of last season; running through defenses and controlling the game?  Or will it be a pass heavy approach, as Tom Brady has owned the Steelers throughout his career, specifically at home?

Shop for official New England Patriots fan gear and authentic collectibles at NFLShop.comIncluding the postseason, Brady is 11-3 against Pittsburgh in his 20-year career, and a perfect 5-0 at home. He's thrown at least three TD's in each of those five contests, and 18 in total, against zero interceptions.  Overall, he's completed nearly 72% of his passes in those games, thrown for just under 1,800 yards combined, and the offense has averaged over 36 points per game; with an average margin of victory of more than 17 points.

However, this Steelers defense has more talent than some of their past units.  The team returns just about every member of a defense that finished in the top 10 last year in total yards allowed per game.  They had the 10th best pass defense, allowing 231 yards per game.  The rush defense was even stronger - allowing just 96 yards per game - good enough for 6th best in the league.

Their strength is in their front seven, so conventional wisdom would suggest that the Patriots would air it out a bit more.  Yet, Sunday night will mark the first time since last December that Brady, Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman will all take the field together.  The last time was, coincidentally, against the Steelers at Heinz Field.

There's bound to be some rust there.  I know they have been working out together at points this offseason, but it's difficult to replicate live action.  Throw in the fact that the Patriots don't appear to have a legitimate receiving threat at tight end, and it would seem that the ground attack could prove more successful.  Sony Michel looked good in limited action this preseason.  There are some new faces on the offensive line, but with Dante Scarnecchia at the helm, those names become a little less important.

Given the way last season ended, the depth of the Patriots backfield and the age of Brady, the popular consensus is that the Patriots are going to beat teams on the ground this year.  Maybe not to the extent of a ground and pound style, but there will be an emphasis on the run and controlling the clock.  So, naturally on Sunday the Patriots will come out and throw the ball on their first 10 plays.

Would that surprise anybody?  I mean, with how successful they were running the ball at the end of last year, Brady being a year older and some question marks at wide receiver, all signs point to them emphasizing the run again this year.  That seems to be the consensus among the "experts".

So it should surprise absolutely nobody when Brady throws the ball 40 times on Sunday night.  It's truly impossible to get into the mind of Bill Belichick, and predict how things are going to play out.  Add in the fact that it's the first week of a new season, and any and every thing is on the table.


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Boston Sports Syndicate: How Will the Patriots Offense Attack the Steelers on Sunday?
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