New York Giants (8-3 SU, 6-4-1 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday, December 4, 2016, 4:25 PM EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
TV: Fox, DirecTV 715
by Badger, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NYG +5.5/PIT -5.5
Over/Under Total: 49.5
Two storied National Football League franchises continue to try and push toward the playoffs in their respective conferences when the New York Giants travel to Heinz Field to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC-NFC cross-conference clash in a late game Sunday on Fox.
Pittsburgh was considered one of the favorites in the AFC going into the season, but an injury to Ben Roethlisberger and a four-game losing streak that started in October and ended in mid-November has forced the Steelers to try and scramble their way back into the AFC wild card chase. Pittsburgh has done exactly that these past few weeks, winning their second straight game last week on Thanksgiving night when they defeated the Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts in primetime, 28-7. But before we start anointing the Steelers as AFC wild card favorites, keep in mind that the Steelers have beaten the Luck-less Colts and the winless Colts in their win streak and all four of their losses in the four-game slide came at the hands of higher quality teams (Dallas, Baltimore, New England and Miami).
But if any team in the NFL has a reason to feel disrespected, it certainly would be the 8-win New York Giants. New York has won six games in a row to climb right to the top of the NFC wild card standings and if not for the Cowboys incredible season the G-men would be sitting pretty and in control of their own destiny coming down the stretch on the final five weeks of the regular season. The Giants haven’t been pretty in winning, including last week’s, 27-13, victory over the Browns, but winning is winning in the NFL and there’s no reason for the Giants to apologize for being right in the thick of the NFC wildcard race.
One only needs to look at the opening point spread for this game for an example of just how “dissed” the Giants could be these days, as the Steelers opened as 5.5-point favorites at home in Heinz Field despite the fact that New York has been playing more consistent football all season long. A few sportsbooks have even moved the number up the hook to Pittsburgh minus -6 points in an effort to draw some early money on the Giants, even though the public bet on this game is sitting right about at the 50-50 mark while the “sharp” bettors have been jumping all over the Giants as a dog at a rather large number.
The over/under total opened at 49 at most books and has been steadily climbing up the ladder since, getting as high as 49.5 or even 50 at a few offshore sportsbooks on the Web.
A lot of bettors may focus in on the big names on offense playing in this game … Eli Manning vs. Roethlisberger, Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Antonio Brown, with Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell being the x-factor because the Giants continue to not really have anyone at the position that can rival Bell’s production. New York continues to struggle in the running game (only 79.5 ypg – 31st in NFL), but they have done a great job at limiting their opponent’s ability to run as the revamped Giants defense is ranked 5th versus the run thus far this season allowing just 89.1 yards per game. It will be interesting to see if the Giants choose to try and double or roll the secondary coverage towards Brown to try and take away the Steelers passing attack, or if they creep safety Landon Collins into the box and load the line of scrimmage to take away Bell running the ball. Either way, the Steelers offense would seem to have the edge going into the game, at least on paper.
Of course these two teams only meet every four years, so history won’t offer much guidance for bettors looking to gain a handicapping edge. In fact, these two have split their last 10 games right down the middle, 5-5 SU with each team alternating wins every other meeting going back to the 1985 and 1991 seasons being the only time one of these teams has won two in a row (NYG won 28-10 at home in ‘85, then again 23-20 in ’91). Perhaps the most telling takeaway from looking at the recent betting trends is the fact that the visiting team is 5-1 SU in the last six meetings. You also have to go back to the 2004 season to find a team favored by more than the “standard” 3-point number in football, with the Giants covering as 10-point underdogs in the ’04 game despite losing it on the scoreboard, 33-30.
Badger's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I do think the Giants have been wining with a smoke-and-mirrors style of play this season, but there’s no shame in winning no matter how it is accomplished. I also don’t see how either defense is going to consistently stop the other team’s passing game in this game. Beckham Jr. and Brown have huge games against weak secondaries and the Steelers win in close game that turns into a shootout, but they won’t do it in a big fashion in my opinion. I’m taking the Giants plus the +5.5 points on Sunday afternoon.
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