Steelers-Patriots Week 1 Thursday Game 2015 Kickoff Preview

September 9, 2015

The NFL, and Tom Brady for that matter, will return to action tomorrow after a drama-filled preseason filled with litigation, injuries to star players (both on and off the field), and the potential relocation of multiple franchises back to Los Angeles.

The season's opening game will be a Thursday night (NBC, 8:30 PM ET) matchup between the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Pats' Gillette Stadium.

Last year, nearly 65 percent of all games were within one score (eight points or fewer) in the fourth quarter. There also were five new playoff teams in 2014: Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, and Pittsburgh.

Since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.

Thursday’s game features two of the NFL’s three winningest teams over past 10 seasons (2005-14). New England (122-38, .763) has the best regular-season winning percentage during that span, while Pittsburgh ranks third (101-59, .631). The Patriots and Steelers combined for 15 playoff berths, six AFC Championship wins, and three Super Bowl titles over the past decade.

Such success immediately prompts the question: Can the Patriots repeat?

It won't be easy. It’s happened only eight times since the first Super Bowl in 1967. But the last team to accomplish the feat? The Patriots in 2004 (Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX).

The Patriots have a 15-1 regular-season record at Gillette Stadium over the past two seasons. New England quarterback Tom Brady, who recently had his four-game "Deflate-gate" suspension lifted via a court order, has an 11-2 career record (.846) in season openers, the highest winning percentage among Super Bowl-era quarterbacks (minimum 10 starts).

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is 13-7 (.650) on Kickoff Weekend and his 13 wins are the most among active head coaches. Belichick is one of only three active head coaches who have won at least 10 Kickoff Weekend games and own an opening weekend winning percentage above .500.

“We have to move on pretty quickly to get to Pittsburgh,” says Belichick. “We feel like we have improved over the course of the preseason, but we will find out for sure during Kickoff Weekend.”

Entering his 21st season as an NFL head coach, Belichick has amassed 233 wins, the fourth-most total victories by a head coach in league history.  Well ahead of him are Don Shula (347 wins), the legendary George Halas (324 wins), and former Dallas Cowboys icon Tom Landry (278 wins).

Meanwhile, the 2014 AFC North champion Steelers travel to New England armed with the most wins (41) among AFC teams on Kickoff Weekend (the Patriots rank fifth in the AFC with 30), but must adjust defensively to the losses of star safety Troy Polamalu and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

“We are excited about the quick transition and for our opener on Thursday night,” says Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin. “We are ready to play ball Thursday night and to get this season going.”

Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown enters 2015 after leading the league with 129 receptions last year, the second-most in a season in NFL history. It marked the first time a Steeler has led the league in receptions in a season.

Brown, who ranked second in the league in 2013 with 110 catches, is one of four players in NFL history with back-to-back 110-catch seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (1994-95), Cris Carter (1994-95), and Wes Welker (2007-09, 2011-12).


QB Landry Jones (concussion)


C Bryan Stork (concussion)


RB Travaris Cadet (hamstring), DE Trey Flowers (knee), S Tavon Wilson (quadricep)

By Staff of and news services   

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