New Orleans Saints (4-7 SU, 4-7 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4 SU, 5-6 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date and Time: Sunday, November 30, 2014, 1:00 pm EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
TV: FOX, DirecTV 713
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NO +4/Pit. +4
Over/Under Total: 53
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With only five weeks left on the NFLs regular season, two teams still jockeying for their rightful positions in their respective conference playoff pictures will line them up between the stripes on Sunday, when the New Orleans Saints travel North to Heinz Field to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for a classic NFC-vs.-AFC brew-haha on Fox.
With nobody seemingly wanting to claim the NFC South this season, the Saints still find themselves tied atop the standings in the division despite a lousy 4-7 record and a three-game losing streak. The Steelers AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens are the team that handed the Saints that third loss in the streak on Monday Night Football last week, running all over and around them for 215 yards in a, 34-27, Ravens victory in the once-invincible Superdome. With one game still remaining on the schedule against all three of the other teams in the NFC South, the division title race is far from over even this late in the season, but if the Saints dont get momentum rolling in their direction soon it could be a long and depressing offseason filled with what ifs down in the Big Easy.
Pittsburgh comes into the game on Sunday with fresh legs and minds following their late-season bye week on week 12. The last time we saw the Steelers their running back LeVeon Bell was piling up yards in chunks against the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night (a 27-24 win), but make no mistake about, their 7-4 record hasnt come easy this year. The Steelers have followed huge victories over Indianapolis and rival Baltimore with a sleepwalk loss against the lowly Jets, so they too need to seize momentum in order to keep pace with the rest of ALL of the 7-4 teams in the AFC North.
With the Saints loss on Monday night to the Ravens still stinging, oddsmakers wasted little time putting this games point spread up on the board with the Steelers as just 4-point favorites at home in ketchup bottle. The number went down briefly to Pittsburgh minus -3.5 briefly for a few hours on Tuesday as sharp money came in on the visiting Saints for awhile, but it went back up to -4 by Wednesday as the short-memory public bettors started taking the side of the favorite in this matchup (like the public always does!).
The over/under total opened at 53 and has held there through the early steam at the window, but there are a few sportsbooks that have gone up the hook to 53.5 in order to take the push out of play as an end result.
That total is a high number because these two teams feature two of the NFLs top scoring offenses and two of the weakest defenses too. In fact, both of these offenses are very capable of exploding for huge offensive scoring numbers even though they both currently sit with the same season average of 26.2 points per game (8th/9th in the NFL). Defensively both started off the season strong, but have taken their lumps of late. New Orleans has been allowing an average of 26 points defensively (25th), while the once Steel Curtain defense is allowing 23.9 points a game (19th).
Part of the reason both defenses have been gouged so badly is because both have had significant injuries along the backend in their secondaries. With visions of Antonio Brown and Mark Bryant for the Steelers and Kenny Stills, Marcus Colston and Jimmy Graham for the Saints running rampant on these depleted secondaries, it wouldnt surprise me in the least to see both teams try and break the tendencies and pound the ball on the ground with the running game.
While some of the matchups between these two powerhouse franchises in the recent past have featured big scoring games (like a 38-31 win by Pitt in 2006; or the 32-29 victory for the Saints in 2002), the last time these two tangled back in 2010 turned into a low-scoring, 20-10, game won by the Saints inside the Superdome. The home field had been a major advantage in the series between these two over the years, as you have to go back to the 1990 and 1987 seasons to find the only two times the home team hasnt won the game in their own stadium.
Since these two only play every four years, finding useful betting trends is an exercise using very small sample sizes. That said, the over is a solid 5-0 in the last five games the Steelers have played at home in Heinz Field. Another interesting trend worth noting is the fact the Saints are 4-0 ATS in their last four games played on a Sunday following a game played on Monday Night Football. However, New Orleans has failed to cover in all three of their games played in November thus far in 2014, and if you go back to last year as well their record is 0-5 ATS in their last five games played when the Calendar says November.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im having a hard time picking a side for this game. The Saints have been underachieving for so long now this year that you know one of these weeks they are going to just explode. But with two weeks to get healthy and game plan for it, I have a strong feeling the Steelers will come ready to play come Sunday. Im likely going to wait a few more days to see where the line for this one moves, but at first blush I think I have to side with the Steelers in this game. Especially if it drops back down to the 3-point range before kickoff.