Indianapolis Colts (6-5 SU, 6-5 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5 SU, 6-4-1 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date/Time: Sunday Night Football, December 6, 2015 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: IND +7/PIT -7
Over/Under Total: 47
The Indianapolis Colts come out to Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. They have some things in common, both being 6-5 teams who have withstood a slew of injuries to still be in the thick of things headed into week 13. Indianapolis will again be without Andrew Luck, going with Matt Hasselbeck at QB. The Steelers have also had QB injury issues, with Ben Roethlisberger suffering a reported concussion on Sunday, but hes been cleared to practice and as of press time, looks to be a go on Sunday.
Pittsburgh hung in there pretty well against Seattle on the road on Sunday, eventually falling short, 39-30. The Steelers offense really thrives with Big Ben behind center, as he threw for 456 yards, before coming out late. They have a slew of big-time talent in the passing game and on Sunday, it was Markus Wheatons turn to shine with 201 yards in the air. But Roethlisberger needs to be in there to get the ball in the hands of all those different pieces of weaponry. It looks like he will be and the Indy road defense will have their hands full. With Cincy faltering, the division is still in play and the Steelers are squarely in the wild card discussion.
The 40-year old Hasselbeck is 4-0 and has kept the Colts season alive with his capable veteran play. The Colts have won 3 in a row, including Sundays 25-12 win over Tampa at home on Sunday. Hasselbeck went over 300 yards, with top receivers TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief having big games. This season, the Colts opened with two straight losses. Since then, theyve had a 3 game winning streak, a 3 game losing streak, and are now on a 3-game winning streak again. They are tied at the top of their division with Houston and for all theyve been through, thats not half-bad.
Indy has benefitted from the previously-dormant Hasselbeck still being effective. He is able to make use of the Colts playmakers, who are now healthy and should be able to keep this offense moving with the absence of Luck, who hadnt really been that good this season anyway. In other words, thinking Indy is going to be appreciably worse with Hasselbeck in there could be a mistake. Its not an ideal long-term solution, but for smaller windows, the Colts offense should be OK. But the injuries and the fact that veteran free agents RB Frank Gore and Andre Johnson havent thrived in this offense makes them a step below what weve seen in recent season from this team.
The Colts defense has been consistentnot good, but not terrible either. They can sometimes step up with a really good performance, as only two teams have gone over 30 on them this season with one being the Patriots and the other in a game the Colts won. Theyre fairly porous on a whole, but they have a strange element of clutch play that seems to spring up in timely fashion. Theyre ranked 27th against the pass and 24th against the run, yet they give up 23.6 points per game, which is good for 17th in the league. Theyre a dicey unit, but they can make big plays, having registered 14 picks so far this season.
But with Big Ben in there slinging the ball to all his different weapons, this D will be stretched to the limit of their capability. With Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, and Antonio Brown, they have three guys who would be the number-one guy on a lot of teams. Losing LeVeon Bell is a huge loss, but the emergence of DeAngelo Williams as a weapon on both the ground and through the air has given Pittsburgh a big boost. The only real concern at this point is the health of Roethlisberger, who cant seem to catch a break in the injury department.
The Steelers are coming off a loss, but putting up 30 in Seattle is no small feat. And if this offense can get a roll, this team could really take off in their final five games and potentially beyond. For most of the season, this offense seemed like it was held back and stuck in the mud, but now its starting to come together and the sheer number of weapons they have is a major issue for most defenses, particularly middling units like a road Indy D.
There are going to be growing pains with the young Pittsburgh defense and on Sunday against the Seahawks, they were exploited a bit. Theyve been shoddy all season against the pass, but when Russell Wilson puts up five touchdowns, its a troubling sign. The struggling Indy ground game might continue to toil this week, with the Steelers pretty stout up-front. And to their credit, the pass-rush is pretty robust and they are good at manufacturing turnovers. They can be a hit-and-miss unit, having given up 16 or fewer points four times, but giving up 28 or more three times.
Both teams can be counted on for an urgent performance this week if anything else. The Indy offense is not as explosive, but theyre more functional with different personnel, whereas the absence of Big Ben puts the Steelers offense in a completely different light. Its not clear that he can be counted on to get through a game and that has to be figured into the equation. And in Indys last 4 road games, they are 3-1, with the only loss being an overtime defeat to the still-unbeaten Carolina Panthers.
This could be a game where its easy to overlook a team like the Colts. They have an old guy in there as quarterback and if he goes down, its Charlie Whitehursts turn. And their defense doesnt inspire confidence in this spot. But Indys offense is also one that could thrive in this spot and Big Ben in not infallible to falling prey a bit to a defense that can make some plays. And other than Luck, theyre healthier overall. I have an inkling Indy is going to hang in there.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Indianapolis Colts plus 7 points.
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