Pittsburgh Steelers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Washington Redskins (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Monday, September 12, 2016 at 7:10PM EST
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: PIT -3/WAS +3
Over/Under Total: 50
The Pittsburgh Steelers come to FedEx Field to face the Washington Redskins in the first installment of Monday Night Football for the 2016-17 football season. These are two of the more-storied franchises in history and both are coming off seasons where they made the playoffs. The Redskins, against all odds, won the NFC East and announced their arrival as contenders. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, was an offensive powerhouse that saw injuries derail their chances. A lot of people consider the Steelers to be among the top contenders in the AFC this season.
When talking to people, the composite opinion on the Redskins is that there will be a downturn. Thereís almost a feeling that their success of 2015 was a mirageóall smoke and mirrors. And maybe thatís because itís hard to identify exactly why they had such improvement. They were at 2-4 through six games and the odds you would have gotten that theyíd win the division at that point would have been astronomical. One shouldnít be so quick to write off a team that was able to bounce back from that kind of adversity, despite facing a lot of issues, like a defense that struggled most of the season.
As the season is poised to start, the optimism on the Steelers has dulled some after what was a really tough offseason. The day after last seasonís Super Bowl ended, they were a team that was the first to come out of a lot of peopleís mouths as a top contender for this season. But then Martavis Bryant was suspended for the season. LeíVeon Bell was suspended for four games, which was later reduced to three.† Old reliable Heath Miller retired, with there being optimism with the signing of talented TE Ladarius Green, whose future is now in doubt. Corner Senquez Golson is a no-go again. And if Ben Roethlisberger were to again go down to injury, they still donít have a terribly viable replacement.
Now that we put out what is wrong with Pittsburgh, letís make sure to account for their positive traits. If Big Ben can stay healthy, this offense looks to still be one of the best in the game. Antonio Brown is the best receiver at least in the conference after two gigantic seasons. Without Bell and Bryant, thatís a lot of missing receptions, but Markus Wheaton is morphing into a useful weapon, while Darrius Heyward-Bey made a nice little personal comeback with the Steelers last season. Sammie Coates is still in the mix. With Bell out for several weeks, the question will again be asked of DeAngelo Williams, who was excellent in relief of Bell last season. Center Maurkice Pouncey returns from injury, which should help the run-game. Itís a very good offense, but can they be great?
The Redskins offense saw a major upswing last season under quarterback Kirk Cousins. He really took his game up a notch and went from back-up/spot starter to a bonafide NFL starter. He threw for 4166 yards and 29 touchdowns. The Redskins look to have a growing aerial attack with DeSean Jackson, surging tight end Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, and rookie Josh Doctson (questionable). Thatís a lot of height and jumping ability to thrive in the red-zone. They do lose Alfred Morris and the ground-game now falls into hands of Matt Jones (questionable) and Robert Kelley. Cousins will need that line to be tip-top. Itís just that maybe theyíre asking too much of Cousins this season. But the list of targets is deep with a lot of different types of ball-catchers who can accommodate any situation. Maybe being one-dimensional in the sense that their run-game lags far behind the air attack wonít be that big of a problem.
The Redskins have some firepower in the defense, but mostly in the back end. The addition of CB Josh Norman adds a real playmaking element to an already-strong secondary. With Bashaud Breeland, DeAngelo Hall, Will Blackmon, Duke Ihenacho, David Bruton, and Kendall Fuller, they are tremendously loaded in this area. Weíll see about the rest of the unit, as there is a reason they were the 28th-ranked defense in the league last season. There is hope, as LB Ryan Kerrigan (questionable) is a tremendous player. But if the defense fails to live up to its potential, it will be because the front-seven didnít rush the passer and make enough plays. And against the Steelers, not being able to stop the run will just open up the aerial attack. The addition of Norman is great, but issues remain.
To be fair, the Steelersí defense has some questions of their own to answer. The Redskins passing-attack looks pretty potent and after giving up 271 yards per game in 2015, the Steelers need to show improvement. And injuries had them scrambling late in the offseason, as they traded for Justin Gilbert. He will join a good corner in William Gay and a fine safety in Mike Mitchell. Rookie Artie Burns joins the fray and this looks to remain a problem area for this defense. Still, the gradual phasing-out of old legs has given this ďDĒ a youthful edge. On the ends, Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward will look to step it up another notch. The same goes for LB Jarvis Jones, though Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier are getting it done at linebacker.
One would probably be forced to admit that if thereís going to be good value here; it would be with the Redskins. Theyíre just not a team that is due to get a lot of attention. Ask someone on the street to name one Washington Redskins player. And even for casual fans and bettors, they see a Kirk Cousins-led team without a running back with one of the worst defenses from last season. Itís a license to overlook them. Contrast that to the high-profile Steelers. Itís easy to see how people can let this stuff play tricks on their mind. Make no mistake, the Steelers are tough and could easily win this game and by a hefty margin. Everyone might be right and the Redskins could be primed to recede back into the pack, with the Steelers ready to explode this season. I see it a little differently. This is a tough road spot for the Steelers in a cross-conference game in unfamiliar territory against a team that actually matches up decently with them stylistically. I see the Redskinsí offense getting a lot of business done and covering the number, with a shot at an outright win.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Washington Redskins plus 3 points.
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