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Each Tuesday morning, Whatifsports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
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Game of the Week: Patriots at Steelers
It's been noted that the NFL's greatest attribute is parity. However, this characteristic only partially enlightens one to the beauty of professional football. For it's not the perceived equality in team performance; rather, it's the uncertainty and ambiguity that begets the league's homology.
Case in point: the New England Patriots. Going into Week 9, the Pats were the prohibitive favorites in the AFC, thanks to five straight wins and a 6-1 record. The continuing implementation of Deion Branch into the offense and return of All-Pro Logan Mankins from his season-long holdout promised to cement New England's status as Super Bowl contenders.
So it was apropos that the Patriots laid the proverbial egg in Cleveland, receiving a spanking to the tune of 34-14. The New England defense made Browns back Peyton Hillis look like the second coming of Earl Campbell as Hillis gained 184 yards on the ground to go along with two touchdowns. Tom Brady looked flustered in the pocket and completed just 52.8% of his pass attempts on the day. Rookie Rob Gronkowski wasn't doing Brady any favors, as the tight-end had some key drops and fumbled near the goal line. To add injury to insult, kicker Stephen Gostkowski suffered a quad injury and is projected to miss the next few weeks of action.
The Steelers can sympathize to the Patriots' plight. Before a Halloween showdown in the Superdome, many pigskin pundits believed Pittsburgh to be the leading candidate for AFC representation in Dallas. The team had gone 3-1 in the league-mandated absence of starter Ben Roethlisberger, with their only loss coming in a hard-fought battle against divisional foe Baltimore. When Roethlisberger returned, the offense appeared to have never missed a beat, as the former Miami Redhawk threw three touchdowns in a 28-10 victory over Cleveland. The Steelers followed this performance with a 23-22 road win in Miami, albeit slightly tainted as Pittsburgh was the beneficiary of a late fumble call by the referees. Sitting at 5-1, employing a defense reminiscent of the Steel Curtain and their signal caller back at the helm, some prognosticated the Steelers to run the table to a 15-1 mark.
Validating that "momentum" is fictitious in the NFL, the Steelers were soundly put to sleep by the Saints 20-10 in Week 8. New Orleans was 4-3 at the time, coming off a discouraging loss to lowly Cleveland. Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense looked discombobulated and out of sync, while the defense could not contain the high-octane aerial attack of Drew Brees.
Yet despite these recent slip-ups, both of these respective squads (along with the Jets and Ravens) find themselves atop the AFC. The Patriots are mirroring their formula for success in the early 2000s; mainly, spreading the ball around on offense, playing "bend-but-don't-break" defense, and grinding out ugly victories. While Brady hasn't put up the dazzling statistics of years' past, the New England quarterback is posting a 95.7 QB rating and has thrown just four picks on the year. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's foundation lies in its D, which is surrendering a league-low 15.4 points per contest. In the absence of Roethlisberger, running back Rashard Mendenhall has emerged as a star, compiling 702 yards and seven touchdowns in 2010.
So who wins the battle of conference contenders? According to the WhatIfSports NFL simulation engine, Pittsburgh comes out on top 87.1-percent of the time, by an average score of 28-14. Check out the rest of this week's projections below:
NFL Week 10
|@ New York Giants||89.6||29||Simulate Game|
|New England Patriots||12.9||14||Boxscore|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||87.1||28||Simulate Game|
|St. Louis Rams||26.1||13||Boxscore|
|@ San Francisco 49ers||73.9||20||Simulate Game|
|@ Arizona Cardinals||68.9||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Chicago Bears||59.3||22||Simulate Game|
|@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers||59.3||18||Simulate Game|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||44.7||18||Simulate Game|
|@ Atlanta Falcons||42.5||21||Simulate Game|
|@ Buffalo Bills||40.3||13||Simulate Game|
|@ Jacksonville Jaguars||33.7||24||Simulate Game|
|@ Washington Redskins||28.5||18||Simulate Game|
|Kansas City Chiefs||72.3||26||Boxscore|
|@ Denver Broncos||27.7||19||Simulate Game|
|New York Jets||72.9||24||Boxscore|
|@ Cleveland Browns||27.1||16||Simulate Game|
|@ Miami Dolphins||9.4||11||Simulate Game|
Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.