Get Patriots vs Steelers player prop picks & odds for their 12/6/23 matchup on Thursday Night football.
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While both teams are going through some serious turmoil at quarterback, every matchup between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers- the only two franchises with six Super Bowl wins- is an intense clash. Even with Kenny Pickett hurt and Mac Jones now on the bench, we can still find some value in this game by evaluating the potential performances of Bailey Zappe and Mitchell Trubisky.
Most teams going through quarterback changes would lean on the run, but given the defensive matchup in this one, that’s going to be a tough path too for both Pittsburgh, so let’s see how things play out for the passing offenses.
Bailey Zappe Under 0.5 Touchdown Passes (+114)
Yes, I understand that buying low is not what you want, but the odds are not reflective of a “low” point, and frankly, the Patriots offense is so broken that it won’t simply be lifted back by positive regression. It’s going to be a slow, long haul, and a road matchup against a top defense in one of the league’s toughest environments on a short week of rest is not going to be where that turnaround starts.
Pittsburgh’s defense is fifth in the NFL in DVOA, and it has excelled specifically against the pass, ranking sixth in that metric compared to 15th against the run. Conversely, New England’s rushing offense DVOA is 18th in the NFL, not a horrible figure, while their metric when throwing is a positively abysmal 29th.
Pairing this trend with what the Pittsburgh defense has exhibited, it’s hard to imagine the Pats putting it in the ball too often with Bailey Zappe at the helm. With Rhamondre Stevenson out, the run game will be a bit diminished, but the same group that ranks 12th in the league in offensive line yards will still be blocking, so this is still likely to be a ground-first approach for New England.
Lastly, let’s talk about the Patriots’ historically-bad recent form. They’re the first team in the Super Bowl era to allow 10 or fewer points in three consecutive games and lose each one, a feat they’ve accomplished by tallying a total of 13 points across those contests. The Pats have scored just one touchdown in that span, and you guessed it, the injured Stevenson was the one who found the end zone.
Interestingly enough, New England’s red zone offense is around league average, but Pittsburgh is sixth in defensive red zone efficiency, so even if the Pats do find a way to move the ball, it’s going to be an uphill battle to convert the drive. Once they do make it around the goal line, the play calling is likely to heavily favor the run, and Zappe isn’t even a true guarantee to finish this game without getting benched for Mac Jones or even Malik Cunningham.
At plus-odds, the prop for him to not throw a passing touchdown is too good to pass up. This number is moving in a way that tracks with our support for the under, so get in on it while you still can.
Mitchell Trubisky Over 181.5 Passing Yards (-115)
Conversely, the Steelers are going to be forced to go to the air. New England’s pass defense ranks 28th in EPA and 23rd in DVOA and success rate, but it’s been even worse than that figure since edge rusher Matthew Judon and top cornerback Christian Gonzalez were ruled out with injuries.
Conversely, New England’s rushing defense is tops in the league in both EPA and success rate and second in DVOA, as it’s been the one true positive for the team this season. Jabrill Peppers and Jahlani Tavai have both been real leaders in this area, and they’ll make it a really tough day for Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris, as well as of course the Pittsburgh offensive line.
Given this stark contrast between the two sides of the New England defense, and no truly defined strength or weakness for the Pittsburgh offense, one might expect that the ball will go in the air early and often when the Steelers have possession. Trubisky didn’t put up big numbers in relief of Kenny Pickett against the Cardinals, but he was efficient enough, and that was a strange game that even included some rare weather delays.
Under more normal circumstances and with the potential to throw quite a few passes, expect the veteran backup to have a solid day and surpass this relatively modest number.
George Pickens Over 41.5 Receiving Yards (-115)
If Trubisky has a nice day, Pickens is likely to be heavily involved. Nearly 32% of the passing yards accumulated by Pickett and Trubisky have gone to the former Georgia Bulldog, as he is the definitive focal point of the Pittsburgh passing attack. This number paired with the total for Trubisky implies that somewhere under 23% of the Pittsburgh air production will come through Pickens; that doesn’t make this a lock by any means, but it’s a definite disconnect with reality, and thus an opportunity for us to grab some value.
Without Gonzalez available to cover him, Pickens should be able to find plenty of space against this New England secondary. Similarly, Trubisky should have time to sit back and find him against a pass rush that ranks fifth in blitz rate but just 19th in pressure rate.
Pickens has been over this number in three of his past four games, and in more than half of Pittsburgh’s games overall. He’s averaging 62.3 yards per game by mean, and 51.5 by median, so this total is well within his wheelhouse, especially on a day that should be very pass-heavy.