Online Sportsbooks make Steelers -11 vs. Raiders
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (2-10 SU, 4-8 ATS)
Date/Time: Sunday, December 9, 4:25 PM EST
Where: Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Ca.
By: Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Pitt -11½ / Oak +11½
Over/Under Total: 52
A battle of 2 of the most storied franchises in the NFL will take place in week 14 with Pittsburgh’s Steelers and Oakland’s Raiders battling it out in the Oakland Coliseum. These two squads are in totally different positions as the season winds down with Pittsburgh trying to secure a playoff spot while Oakland is playing out the string with the chance to secure the first overall pick in next year’s draft. The online sportsbooks know this and have priced the Steelers as 11 point favorites. Despite the Steelers having all of the obvious motivational advantages in this contest, the play in the Black Hole is to take the home dog Raiders and the 11½ points. Here are 3 reasons.
Oakland is Playing Hard
Oakland appeared to hit rock bottom in the first two games of November when they lost in consecutive weeks to in-state rivals San Francisco and the Chargers. The 49ers (Free Pick) embarrassed the Raiders in week 9 beating their cross-town rivals by 30 points with an undrafted free agent in his first NFL start. Oakland followed that up with a home loss to division-rival Los Angeles by 14 points. Jon Gruden’s offense managed a total of 3 field goals over the two games, and football pundits interpreted the two games to mean that the team was quitting on Chucky and tanking to get the first pick in the 2019 draft.
Most of that chitchat was put to rest in week 11 when the Raiders went to Arizona and defeated the Cardinals and followed that up by playing 2 solid games against Baltimore and Kansas City in the following weeks. Oakland was within a field goal in both of those games in the 4th quarter. In Baltimore, a Raven strip sack late in the game put the contest (and cover) out of reach, and then last week Pat Mahomes threw for a touchdown at the 2 minute mark to lock the game up for KC – although the Raiders covered the number. But for the Raiders, their offense has rebounded to score 73 points over this 3 game stretch, averaging over 330 yards per contest. The defense is still the weakness for the Silver and Black, but that side of the ball is also competing better and have recorded 5 takeaways over the last 3 weeks after only 7 in their first 9 games. Oakland is 2-1 ATS in the last 3 weeks, and have proven Gruden has not lost the team heading down the home stretch.
Pittsburgh’s Soap Opera has Returned
Pittsburgh on the other hand has regressed over the past few weeks and rather than responding with an all in for the team mentality, they have chosen finger and pointing and placing blame on others. The Black and Gold started the season with drama that was primarily imposed on them by Le’Veon Bell’s holdout. The team stood at 1-2-1 after week 4, then put the Bell drama behind them in week 4 and started on a 6 game winning streak that saw them sit at 2nd overall in the AFC after week 11. Pittsburgh covered the number in the first 5 games of that streak and pushed in the final win against Jacksonville.
Things were rolling for the Steelers, which as all Steeler fans know is when it is time to get worried. Pittsburgh lost straight up as favorites the next two weeks to the Broncos in Denver and then last week at home against the Chargers. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has responded to the losses by calling out receivers Antonio Brown and James Washington in the media for lack of effort in the Denver loss. Big Ben stated he feels he has the right to call out teammates, though it is something no other star QB would do. The Steelers responded last week by blowing a game that they led by 16 points at half time. This is standard procedure for the Steelers under Mike Tomlin, underachieving in critical games while Tomlin refuses to keep his superstar players focusing on team goals. Pittsburgh is 0-2-1 ATS in their last 3 games, and a cross-country game as an 11½ point favorite is the last thing this team needs to get everyone focused and on the same page.
Oakland’s Offense will Score
As stated above, Oakland’s offense has gotten off the mat in the last 3 weeks to average 24 points per game. This is the post Amari Cooper / Marshawn Lynch offense that seems to have worked themselves into a groove. At the same time, the Steelers have been allowing 24 points per contest over their last 3 games including games against Jacksonville and Denver whose offenses are no better than Oakland’s. Pittsburgh averaged allowing less than 20 points during their 6 game winning streak playing better offenses, but have been pushed around in their last 3. Philip Rivers carved up the Steeler secondary for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns and reminded the league and Gruden that Pittsburgh struggles to cover the middle of the field. In the previous 2 weeks, Pittsburgh couldn’t stop the run – allowing 303 rushing yards in those 2 games. Gruden will be able to draw up a game plan that can exploit Pittsburgh’s weaknesses and put points on the board. Derek Carr has settled into Gruden’s offense and had his best game of the year last week against the Chiefs and Doug Martin has averaged over 4 yards per carry in the last 3 weeks. Look for the Raiders to score enough points to keep this game close.
Play the Home Dog Raiders
The Steelers are 0-2-1 ATS as road favorites this year. This is a typical spot that no one would be surprised if Pittsburgh laid an egg and lost the game outright. The Raiders will compete in front of Raider faithful and keep the game close. The play in the Black Hole this week is the Raiders + 11½ points.