Green Bay Packers (9-4 SU, 8-4-1 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7
SU, 4-9 ATS), Week 15 NFL, 4:15 p.m. EST, Sunday, December 20, 2009, Heinz Field,
Pittsburgh, Pa., TV: FOX
by Badger of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Packers +1/Steelers -1
Two of the most storied franchises in the entire NFL will clash on Sunday at Heinz Field when the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Green Bay Packers, but on the field these two teams are heading in 180-degree different directions.
The Packers have won five straight games to put them firmly in the
drivers seat for one of the NFCs wildcard spots, sweeping the
season series from the Chicago Bears on the road at Soldier Field
last Sunday, 21-14.
On the other sideline the Steelers have lost five straight, and suddenly the defending champions are on the outside of the AFC
playoff picture looking in and it isnt sitting well with anyone.
Last Thursday the entire City of Pittsburgh hurt as the Steelers
dropped a 13-6 dud on the road in Cleveland, when the Browns turned
into Blitz-burgh and sacked Ben Roethlisberger eight times.
Now the Steelers are faced with the task of winning out the rest of
their schedule which starts this week against Green Bay (Baltimore
and Miami remaining), a red-hot team that will be the one bringing
the leagues No. 1 defense into Pittsburgh, the team that is usually
sitting in that position.
If you need another example of how far everyones confidence in the defending champion Steelers has fallen, you need to only look at the
fact that oddsmakers in Las Vegas opened this game with the Steelers
as slim 1-point favorites at home. Sure the Packers are a huge public
team and therefore always require inflated odds, but when was the
last time the Steelers werent at least the standard 3-point fave at
home in Heinz?
Early action is all on the Packers too, since the point spread has moved at a few offshore sportsbooks to a pick em (BoDog, 5Dimes).
The over/under opened at 41 and has dropped the hook to 40.5 at a few sportsbooks on the Internet, but a large majority of them are still
sitting with 41 on their board.
Because of the two defenses on the field Sunday, this game will likely turn into a contest of chuck-n-duck between quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Roethlisberger on offense.
Rodgers and Big Ben have similar numbers on the season (3,579-
to-3,346 yards, 65-to-68 completion percent, 25-to-19 touchdowns),
and both teams are skewed a little towards being pass-heavy (GB 255.1
ypg 9th; Pitt 249 ypg 12th) due to their struggles at times to
establish the running game (GB 119. 3 ypg 13th; Pitt 113.5 ypg
But the offense in this game is going to be generated by what the two
defenses in this game do, so passing the ball a lot with Rodgers and
Roethlisberger might be the path of least resistance. The Steelers
are the top run-stopping unit in the league (84.8 ypg), with the
Packers right behind them in 2nd (85 ypg), so neither team will be
expecting too much yardage on the ground.
The Packers defense has performed beyond everyones expectations this
season, their first year under new coordinator Dom Capers 3-4
scheme. Surprisingly, it was when the Packers lost veterans Aaron
Kampman and Al Harris that Capers decided to turn up the pressure on
the blitz. Since then the Pack has allowed just 13 points per game in
victories over Detroit, Baltimore and the Bears.
The Steelers still have a strong defense, they just havent been
dominating and getting takeaways like usual. Theyve played without
safety Troy Polamalu for most of the season, and linebacker James
Harrison has disappeared in the last few games (no sacks, no forced
fumbles), but the unit still has enough playmakers to make it
difficult for the Packers and Rodgers to get comfortable in the pocket.
Its been four years since these two teams last met on the field, a
20-10 victory for the Steelers on the road in Lambeau as 3-point road
favorites in November of 2005. The Steelers also won the time before
that (27-20 in 1998) to make it two in a row, but all told the series
is tied at 3-3 SU and 3-3 ATS dating back to the 1986 season.
Pittsburgh has been perfect at home in the series though, winning
both games and covering the number for a 2-0 ATS record at home as well.
Green Bay has played well on the road in head coach Mike McCartheys
tenure though, going 18-7-1 ATS in their last 26 road games,
including a 10-4-1 mark in their last 15 games as a road underdog.
Badgers Pick: The Steelers have too much talent and too much pride
to go down without a fight. The Packers have a short week to prepare,
plus the Steelers will just flat-out be determined to prove theyre
still the champs for three more weeks. Take the Steelers at home,
especially if you can get points.