Philadelphia Eagles (3-1 SU, 0-3-1 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS)
NFL Week 5
Date/Time: Sunday, October 7th, 2012/1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
TV: Fox Network/DirecTV 705
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Phi +3.5/PIT -3.5
Over/Under Total: 44
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The battle for bragging rights in the state of Pennsylvania will take place inside Heinz Field this Sunday, when the Philadelphia Eagles travel for an NFC-AFC showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers in an NFL early game on Fox.
Philly is off to a 3-1 start and fresh off of a, 19-17, slugfest win over the New York Giants last week. Running back LeSean McCoy had a majority of his 123 yards in the second half as the Eagles protected the ball (zero turnovers) and willed their way to another comeback win on Sunday Night Football.
Pittsburgh will be rested and waiting following a bye in week four, and for the first time the defense may be at full strength as LB James Harrison and S Troy Polamalu rumored to be ready for action with the extra week of rest (still listed as questionable). The Steelers will likely be itching to get back on the field and try and erase the bad taste left in their last game, a 34-31 loss in Oakland two weeks back.
Despite a 1-2 start the Steelers still garner respect, especially at Heinz Field, so it’s no surprise the Steelers are at least the “standard” 3-point favorite in this game as the home team. Most of the properties out in Las Vegas are showing Pittsburgh minus -3.5 on their boards, so you may have to pay extra juice to get rid of the hook and bring the push back into play.
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The over/under total opened at 44 and has yet to move in either direction.
If this was an old-school Eagles-Steelers matchup we’d see lots of run-orientated offenses with a little mix of play-action, but these are not your father’s Eagles and Steelers.
Without starting running back Rashard Mendenhall the Steelers have yet to get anything that resembles a running game, averaging just 65 yards a game (31st) in three games. With Ben Roethlisberger throwing it well (56 % 3rd down, 109.2 QB Rating, 8-to-1 TD-INT) the Steelers are still able to stay competitive, but not for long against defenses like the Eagles.
The Eagles offense has Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy running the ball (146 ypg - 7th), and DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek catching the ball (272 ypg - 10th) and moving the ball up and down the field, but offensive line issues (11 sacks) and ball security issues (12 turnovers) have killed the Eagles so much so that the 5th-ranked offense overall (418 ypg) is only scoring 16 points a game (30th).
The only reason the Eagles are 3-1 is because of their defense, a unit ranked 5th overall and one that is causing problems (seven sacks) and forcing turnovers (8 total). The Eagles do give up yards in the running game, but the Steelers don’t appear equipped to take advantage right now.
The Steelers defense has yet to play at full strength this season, but with Harrison and Polamalu back it might be able to create some problems for the first time this season. So far, the Steelers defense has only created one interception and one forced fumble in three games, a number that won’t cut it against an offense like the Eagles.
These two last played back in 2008, a turnover-filled, 15-6, snoozer the Eagles won at home in the Philly (and covered as 3.5-point favorites). The last time they met in Pittsburgh (in 2004), the Steelers held serve winning, 27-3, as 1-point underdogs. All told, Philly holds a slight 5-2 SU edge over the years, and an even slighter 4-3 ATS advantage going back to the 1988 season.
Pittsburgh is 5-1 ATS following a bye week, and they are traditionally strong at home (9-3 ATS in L12) and great following a SU loss (9-0 ATS).
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Steelers had an extra week to prepare and game plan for the Eagles, so I know Dick Lebeau and the defense will have some interesting wrinkles for Philly’s dinged up offensive line. Philly has to come down a little from a huge NFC East win over Dallas on Sunday Night last week too, a classic letdown spot. I’m not excited about it, it’s just a lean, but if I had to pick a side I’m taking the Steelers minus the points at home.
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