Earlier this season, Bill Belichick used one publication’s expert picks to motivate his team after every analyst predicted the Patriots would lose. The result? A blowout 41-14 victory over the Dolphins.
If that perceived disrespect indeed inspired his troops, Belichick would be wise to print out this roundup below, as all but one ESPN expert -- Ron Jaworski -- pick the Steelers to beat his Patriots on Sunday night at Heinz Field. Here’s a look at all of the predictions:
* ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss: Steelers 20, Patriots 17. I see this as a low-scoring game. Given the struggles of the Patriots' offense and the strength of the Steelers' defense, coupled with the home field, I slightly favor Pittsburgh. I think the Patriots will play a better game than last week, but still come up short.
* ESPNBoston.com’s Tedy Bruschi: Steelers 28, Patriots 20. In thinking about who I should pick for this game I'm reminded of something Coach Belichick taught me. It was the week before a big game. I can't remember which one -- they were all big -- and we had played poorly the week before and there were some comments said in the media by some of our players about looking forward to having success the next week. Coach Bill Belichick said, "You guys think you're gonna go out there and play well?! BASED ON WHAT?!" He then proceeded to list our struggles as a team and told us that until we started to fix our problems they were going to show up over and over again. Based on what? Exactly. Based on what I saw last week the Patriots have a lot of fixing to do.
* ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter: Steelers over Patriots. “Typically in this league, good teams that come off bad games usually can respond with some good performances," Schefter said on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Friday. "And it won't surprise me if New England comes out and plays a very good game. The problem is, Pittsburgh hasn't played great lately. They nearly gave away the game on Monday night to Cincinnati. And Pittsburgh, to me, might just be the best team in the NFL right now. And you're going to play there, on a Sunday night, tough environment. This is about as tough a matchup as the Patriots could have at this point in the season."
* ESPN.com's Bill Simmons: Patriots (+4.5) over STEELERS. Good signs for the Patriots: a history of success in Heinz Field; a history of success in the Belichick era after a bad loss; a bad break for Pittsburgh with LT Max Starks being lost for the season; and I didn't put them No. 1 in a Power Poll this week while screaming, "The New England Patriots are back in business!" Bad signs for the Pats: Who knows whether they're good after last weekend's debacle? When in doubt, take the points.
* ESPN experts: Of the eight experts, seven pick the Steelers to beat the Patriots (only Ron Jaworski picks the Patriots).
* Sunday Countdown: Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Tom Jackson all pick the Steelers.
* Madden simulation: Steelers 20, Patriots 17. After falling behind 20-10, the Patriots attempt a late rally, scoring a touchdown with six minutes left in the fourth quarter to pull within three points. There was plenty of time, but it wasn't meant to be as the Steelers get the ball and eat up most of the clock thanks to the speedy feet of Rashard Mendenhall. When the Patriots finally do get the ball back, Tom Brady throws a pick that ends any chances of a miraculous New England win.
* Doug Kretz, Scouts, Inc.: Steelers 27, Patriots 21. (Insider)
* What's your prediction for Patriots-Steelers? Leave it in the comments section of this blog post.