Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS)
Date/Time:Sunday, January 17th, 4:40pm
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile Hugh Stadium – Denver, CO
by Bob, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: PIT +6.5 / DEN -6.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
One of the most anticipated playoff games of the week will take place Sunday in Denver, Colorado when the Pittsburgh Steelers head into Mile High with a shot to keep the road teams winning and earn a trip to the AFC Title game. These two teams met just a few weeks ago and the Steelers got the 34-27 win at home, but, as we know, there is something a little different about this game. No, not because Pittsburgh has to travel west, but because Peyton Manning is back. Yes Manning is having one of the worst seasons of his career not only because of his injuries, but the fact he just is not playing like the Peyton we all know. Age has set in. But, there is always something mysterious when these sure fire Hall of Famers know they are on their last leg and it is almost the end of their career. Can Peyton Manning for one game play like he did back in the day? We shall see.
The Broncos come into this game as a 6.5 home favorite over the Steelers. The total points have yet to be set in this game but I assume it will be in the mid 40s. As of late Monday night, the action was nearly even on this game. 53% of the action was on the Steelers while 47% like the home team, Broncos, to cover and move on to the AFC title game. When I am totally torn on a game, I like to look at past trends just to see if I can find a stat that causes me to lean a particular direction. Well, check these out: Pittsburgh is 0-3 ATS in their last three road playoff games. Denver is 0-4 ATS in their four divisional round playoff games so that does not help us any. In this series, Denver has covered the last three meetings as well as five of the last six between these two. With all that said, this is going to be a close game that I firmly believe will come down to the final three or four minutes of the fourth quarter.
While the Broncos were at home resting up, the Steelers were in the middle of a street fight with the Cincinnati Bengals. If you did not see that game, you missed it. Yeah, there was a lot of classlessness on both sides, mostly the Bengals, but it was very entertaining. Pittsburgh looked all but dead with just over a minute to go then the wheels came off for Cincinnati. Long story short, the Bengals imploded both physically and mentally allowing the Steelers to kick the game winning field in the waning seconds to move on to the divisional round of the playoffs. Last week’s game was a defensive struggle til late, but it was just a different type game than this will be. The Steelers and Broncos do not have the hate like the Bengals and Steelers do due to them being divisional foes. I see this game being much cleaner and not as sloppy and I think this could potentially be an okay match-up for Pittsburgh. With Big Ben back and playing at pretty much 100%, and the defense getting better and better down the stretch, this has become a team that people fear in the playoffs. The Steelers key to this game is to play solid defense. If they can get after Peyton Manning, he could have a very poor performance. I have never been afraid to say that I believe Peyton Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback of all time, but when it comes to the post season, well, I don’t even need to explain that do I? I like the Steelers to make this game interesting, but only if their defense performs. The run game of the Broncos MUST be stopped and Manning must be forced to win this game with his arm, that has lost some zip over the years.
It may sound like I am being hard on Manning, but I am really not. Facts are facts. But even so, this Denver team is legit regardless of who their quarterback is. During the regular season, Denver finished with the fourth best scoring defense in the NFL. The strong defense was the main reason that this team came out in 2015 and started 7-0 and eventually gaining home field and a 12-4 overall record. Is this team a real Super Bowl contender? I watch them play and defensively, yes, but the offense just does not scare me, or anyone for that matter. On the season, the Broncos finished with the 18th best scoring offense at just over 21 points a game. Both the passing offense and run offense finished right around the middle of the pack in the NFL rankings. So statistically, I am wrong, and this team is to be feared in some form on both sides of the ball. The key to winning this game and covering the nearly touchdown spread is to continue the defensive dominance while getting some points from the offense. Okay, yea, that is very simple minded but it is true. Denver must keep Big Ben and Antonio Brown from playing catch all day but the main thing for the Broncos is to have some offensive success, mostly in the run game. If Pittsburgh is able to stuff the run and cause Manning to have to put the team on his back, not only will Denver not cover, they will not win period. I like this team overall, but this game is not a very easy match up for them.
I have never been a huge Peyton Manning guy, especially in the post season and I think this Pittsburgh team is just on some sort of mission. They were a loss away from not even making the playoffs. Then they were Cincinnati not taking a knee and settling for a field goal..along with a total mental and emotional meltdown by the Bengals defense…from not being in this game. I hate calling teams a “team of destiny” but if the Steelers win this game by some weird miracle or inexplicable blunder by the Broncos, then I just may have to call them that. However, taking into account everything over the 2015 season and the last few weeks, I think the Steelers are the better team TODAY. I like Pittsburgh to go into Mile High and EASILY cover the 6.5 and potentially get the win.
Bob’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: TAKE THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS +6.5
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