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Week 14's Sunday night game might be the best one we've seen all season, as the 11-1 Pittsburgh Steelers take a trip to New York and face the 9-3 Buffalo Bills. The Steelers are coming off of their first loss of the season, a 23-17 home loss to Washington, while the Bills capped off their fifth win in six games with a 34-24 Monday night win against the 49ers.
Here is a closer look at each of these teams heading into the game, along with a free pick for who will come out on top. Right now, Buffalo is favored at home by 1.5 points.
In the historical lifespan of the Steelers franchise, the team never had as good of a start as they did in 2020. This season, Pittsburgh rolled to wins in their first 11 games, defeating the rival Ravens twice and fellow playoff-contenders like the Browns and Titans. The health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has played a massive role in their resurgence, as the vet has over 3,100 passing yards after missing almost all of last season. In addition, Pittsburgh's offense includes skill players like running back James Conner and receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool, all of whom have had big games at one point or another. Not to mention a defense led by linebacker T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick that is among the best in the league. But the dreams of perfection ended Monday against Washington, despite holding a two-touchdown lead. Now the Steelers aim to hold onto the one-seed despite three of their final four games coming on the road and against teams above .500.
Pittsburgh is averaging 27.8 points per game, seventh in the NFL, on a 22nd-ranked 352 yards per game. There's a fairly sizable gap between the passing and running games, as they rank 14th in passing yards but 29th in rushing yards per game. However, the Steelers are sixth when it comes to third down success, converting 45.5 percent of the time.
On the defensive side of the ball, you'd be hard-pressed to find any team which has been better overall. Pittsburgh's 17.6 points allowed per game is the lowest in the NFL, and their 326 yards allowed is the third-lowest. They have the second-best pass defense allowing just under 200 yards and the sixth-best run defense, and also sit inside the top-five on third down defense. Most impressively, this defense makes plays, as they lead the NFL with 44 sacks, 16 interceptions, and a +11 turnover differential.
For the first time in over 20 years, the Bills entered a season as the clear favorite to win the AFC East. So far, through 12 weeks, they have made good on the high expectations, sitting at a pretty 9-3. Buffalo started the year 4-0, averaging over 30 points a game thanks to some breakout performances from quarterback Josh Allen, who now has over 3.400 passing yards and 32 total touchdowns. Losses to the Titans and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks seemed to humble Buffalo to a degree, but since then, they have won five of six, with the lone loss coming on a last-second Hail Mary from the Cardinals. The Bills' solid season comes from great performances from Allen, wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, plus defensive stand-outs like safety Jordan Poyer and cornerback Tre'Davious White. Now with four games to go and the Dolphins hot on their tail, the Bills hope to end powerful and claim their first division title since 1995.
Buffalo averages 27.8 points per game, the exact same as Pittsburgh, tied for the seventh-most in the NFL. Unlike Pittsburgh, though, the Bills are in the top-10 with over 390 yards per game. They have a fairly-imbalanced offensive attack, ranking third in passing yards but just 23rd in rushing yards. However, they have the best third down offense in the league, converting 49.3 percent of the time.
On the defensive side of things, the Bills are fairly average to below-average. Buffalo allows 25.5 points per game, 18th in the NFL, while also ranking 22nd with 389 total yards allowed. They sit 20th in passing yards allowed and also 24th in both rushing yards allowed and third down percentage. In addition, they have 30 sacks and 10 interceptions as a team.
Starting with the Steelers, the 11-1 AFC North leaders are 8-4 ATS this season. They're also undefeated on the road, covering in all but one of their five road games. Pittsburgh is 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against the AFC and are 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games against the Bills.
Speaking of the Bills, they are 7-5 ATS compared to their 9-3 record overall. They are 5-1 at home, covering four times in those six games. While Buffalo is 4-1 ATS in their last five games, they are 1-4 ATS in their last five games against the AFC and 1-4 ATS in their last five home games against the Steelers.
This game means a lot for the Steelers in terms of rebounding from a loss and getting back on track. But this game means everything for the Bills, who still have a chance to get one of the top-two seeds in the AFC and look to announce themselves as official Super Bowl contenders. Look for the Allen and Diggs connection to be strong throughout the game, especially with Pittsburgh cornerback Joe Haden ruled out for the contest. I'm giving the edge to Buffalo to pull off the win in this pivotal Sunday night showdown.
Pick: Bills -1.5