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Each Tuesday, 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.
The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.
To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2011 NFL season.
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Game of the Week: Patriots at Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots have asserted their dominance over the NFL for the past decade, as the two teams have accounted for seven Super Bowl appearances since the 2001 season. This current campaign is no different, with the franchises currently listed as top challengers for the conference crown. These AFC contenders collide in the Steel City on Sunday, making the matchup the WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
At first glance, it's seemingly been business as usual for Pittsburgh, as the Steelers boast a 5-2 record heading into Week 8. In reality, it's been quite the contrary, as the Black-and-Yellow uncharacteristically stumbled out of the gate in the first quarter of the season. Mike Tomlin's crew dropped two of their first four contests, including a beating at the hands of Baltimore. Worse, Pittsburgh struggled against a depleted Indianapolis crew in Week 3. Pittsburgh has somewhat righted the ship with three straight wins, although their opponents (Tennessee, Jacksonville, Arizona) have been far from daunting. Playing the Pats and Ravens in back-to-back weeks should serve as a litmus test for the aptitude and ability of this Steelers squad.
Part of the Pittsburgh's pedestrian performance lies in the running game, or lack thereof. Rashard Mendenhall, one of the league's top backs with 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010, has failed to sustain any of last season's momentum. Mendenhall made waves with a 146-yard feat against Jacksonville in Week 6, but has failed to surpass 66 yards in five other contests. Ben Roethlisberger (1,937 yards, 12 touchdowns, 95.3 QB rating) and the passing game have been effective, but if Pittsburgh holds any playoff aspirations, the run will need to be established.
The Patriots can't commiserate with the Steelers' offensive afflictions. Despite an arduous schedule, New England sits on top of the AFC East with a 5-1 mark. Propelled by their blitzkrieg offense, which is assaulting opposing defenses through the air to the tune of 350.5 yards per game, Bill Belichick and company are one of four teams averaging over 30 points per contest.
At age 34, Tom Brady has never displayed a better command and cognizance of his offense. Although New England lacks a viable deep threat, Brady has embraced a modified "dink and dunk" system, picking apart defenses like Will Hunting destroying numerical equations. This perception is best illustrated in his relationship with target Wes Welker. The diminutive wideout is on a record-setting pace with 51 receptions for 785 yards and six scores working out of the slot. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have also benefited from this structure, combining for 56 receptions, 690 yards and five trips to the end zone.
Yet while the Patriots may hang their hat on their proficient passing attack, it's their triple-headed backfield of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead against the Steelers' front seven that will dictate the outcome of Sunday's showdown. While notorious for their resistance against the run (Pittsburgh held opponents to a league-low 62.8 yards per game in 2010), Dick LeBeau's defense has been anything but a Steel Curtain this season, allowing 107.1 yards per contest. If the Pats can exploit this weakness, it could be a long day for the Terrible Towels.
So who wins this clash of AFC titans? According to the WhatIfSports.com award-winning simulation engine, the Patriots come out on top 52.9 percent of the time by an average score of 24-23. For the rest of this week's predictions, check below:
Please note: The Colts/Titans, Browns/49ers, Redskins/Bills, Vikings/Panthers, Bengals/Seahawks, Cowboys/Eagles and Saints/Rams were resimulated on 10/27 to account for injuries and roster updates.
NFL Week 8
|@ Houston Texans||85.2||28||Simulate Game|
|@ Baltimore Ravens||81.7||25||Simulate Game|
|@ Tennessee Titans||81.4||28||Simulate Game|
|@ San Francisco 49ers||73.1||22||Simulate Game|
|@ New York Giants||65.0||24||Simulate Game|
|@ Buffalo Bills||62.0||19||Simulate Game|
|New England Patriots||52.9||24||Boxscore|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||47.1||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Carolina Panthers||45.2||20||Simulate Game|
|@ Seattle Seahawks||44.7||17||Simulate Game|
|San Diego Chargers||63.8||27||Boxscore|
|@ Kansas City Chiefs||36.2||22||Simulate Game|
|@ Philadelphia Eagles||31.0||19||Simulate Game|
|@ Denver Broncos||24.9||15||Simulate Game|
|New Orleans Saints||85.0||31||Boxscore|
|@ St. Louis Rams||15.0||17||Simulate Game|
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