The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, two of the most dominant AFC teams in the last decade and a half, are about to square off again in the postseason, but not just a usual playoff game — the AFC Championship game.
With a spot in Super Bowl 51 on the line, Las Vegas is leaning towards New England, the home team, when it comes to the odds in this matchup. The opening line had the Patriots as 5-point favorites, and the line has gone up to 6-point favorites for the championship game.
Now, fans should realize this isn’t Las Vegas predicting the winner, but simply trying to move money. They want fans to take the Steelers getting 6-points, and t is highly unlikely the sports books would increase the spread to a touchdown difference between these two teams. The Steelers have won 9-games in a row for a reason, and should be able to match up well against the Patriots. Not guaranteeing a victory for the black and gold, but the ability to keep it close.
With Vegas showing the Patriots love, what about the experts who submit weekly picks for every week/round of the playoffs? Let’s take a look who they like in this AFC grudge match.
In what has been a rarity throughout the Steelers’ current winning streak, Pittsburgh is not the team most experts are taking. Before fans in the 412 area code start running for the nearest bridge, there were plenty of experts who like the black and gold in this matchup, but not one website showed the majority of their experts taking the Steelers.
Here at SB Nation, 3 of the 8 experts like the Steelers, while only one 1 of the 5 experts at FOX Sports thinks the Steelers can go into Gillette Stadium and be victorious. The Patriots love doesn’t stop there. ESPN’s expert panel is all in for the Pats, except for two, one of them being former Steelers running back Merril Hoge. At CBS Sports, like SB Nation, 3 of the 8 experts think Pittsburgh will punch their ticket to Super Bowl 51.
These are only 4 sites, what about those other experts across the internet who are making selections? Our friends at NFL Pick Watch, a website which takes all NFL expert picks and puts them into one easy-to-read graph, breaks it down for us. As of midday Saturday, 78-percent of the experts were taking New England to hold serve and advance to the Super Bowl once again. This is the first time this postseason the Steelers haven’t had more than 50-percent of the expert picks heading into a game.
Pittsburgh has long been a team who clings to the underdog role. Backs against the wall, all there is left to do is to come out swinging. And that is exactly what will happen on Sunday evening in the AFC Championship game. Vegas likes the Patriots, and the experts are leaning their way too, but there is a reason why they play the game.