Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) vs. Tennessee Titans (1-4 SU, 1-4 ATS)
NFL Week 6
Date/Time: Thursday, October 11th, 2012/8:20 p.m. EST
Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
TV: NFL Network
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com

Point Spread: Pit -5.5/TEN +5.5
Over/Under Total: 43

The Pittsburgh Steelers will try and continue their climb up the AFC North standings when they make a trip to Nashville to take on the struggling Tennessee Titans in an AFC primetime clash on Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network.

The Steelers used the bye week to get healthy and then took care of business in the battle for in-state bragging rights by edging the Philadelphia Eagles, 16-14, last Sunday. The heralded Pittsburgh defense held Michael Vick and the Eagles to just 246 yards and 14 points and forced two fumbles, including a crucial one by Vick on the Steelers goal line.

The win came at a high cost however, as two more key members of the Steelers defense, Troy Polamalu (calf) and LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) were both lost to injury and have already been declared out of action with the short turnaround for the Thursday Night Football game.

Tennessee also limps into the early-week game with a host of injuries, but at 1-4 and with a long laundry list of issues on both sides of the ball, the Titans may have already tossed this season to the scrap heap. Once again the Titans feel behind by big points early in the first half and never recovered in last week’s loss at Minnesota, 30-7. Matt Hasselbeck, filling in for the injured Jake Locker at QB, played alright in the backup role, but the Titans defense is still a sieve allowing 433 yards (175 rushing for a 5.6 ypc average) to the Vikings.

With Locker still out on Thursday, Hasselbeck is vowing to fix all of the Titans woes on offense, but unless he’s ready to play linebacker and fix a porous defense, I’m not sure how much anybody should expect out of the Titans with a short week to prepare.

What is interesting is how the point spread has moved for this game since it opened late on Sunday night. Originally set with the Steelers as 6.5-point favorites on the road, the early steam came in on the struggling Titans so much that most sportsbooks were forced to drop the number to Pittsburgh minus -5.5. There is still a few -6 on the board at some offshore sportsbooks, and a few that have dropped the hook and made the number minus -5, but at least for now it looks like the point spread has stopped moving and will likely hang in the -5 to -6 range.

The over/under total opened at 43.5 and has either dropped the hook to 43, or it has dropped a whole point down to 42.5 depending on where you look.

On paper it would appear that these two offenses are going in opposite directions. For the first time all season the Steelers had a healthy Rashard Mendenhall last week and his appearance alone (14 carries, 81 yards, TD) help to spark the Steelers running game that has struggled thus far (83 ypg – 26th) to its best performance of the year with 136 yards and a 4.3 yards per carry average.

Tennessee and its star running back Chris Johnson continue to struggle. A week after having his first 100-yard rushing game, CJ2K went back into neutral mode last week against the Vikings with just 24 yards on 15 carries (1.6 ypc). The Titans have yet to run the ball well (65 ypg – 30th), and it’s killing the passing game as teams no longer need to stack the box to stop the Titans from grinding it out.

But the way the Titans defense has played this season (32nd in points allowed – 36.2 ppg; 29th in total yards – 424 ypg), it doesn’t seem to matter how well the offense plays. When you’re down by two scores before halftime, there’s not much you can do other than try and throw it to catch up and that’s certainly not the Titans strength on offense. With Mendenhall back to revive the run game (Tenn. is allowing 144 ypg – 28th), I expect Ben Roethlisberger to be able to take full advantage of the Titans throwing the ball on play action and on early downs.

Without Polamalu and Woodley the Steelers defense will be weakened, but since they’ve been playing without them off and on already this season, I’m not sure it will make much difference in stopping the Titans attack.

The Steelers have beaten the Titans three straight years, including last year in a 38-17 rout as 3-point favorites. The last game in Nashville (2010) turned into a 19-11 Steelers win (as 6-pt dogs), and the last time the Titans won on the field was in 2008, a 31-14 victory spearheaded by old QB Kerry Collins and the two-headed running attack of CJ2K and LenDale White.

The betting trends for this game are interesting, and not what you’d expect if you were basing a decision on what we’ve all seen thus far in 2012.

Pittsburgh has been brutal on the road of late (0-6 ATS in L6) and they are only 3-13 in their last 16 games following a straight up win. Meanwhile, the Titans are a perfect 4-0 in their last four appearances on a Thursday Night game and the underdog has actually produced a 6-2 ATS record in the head-to-head series over the years.. However, any bet on Tennessee should be made knowing they are 1-7-1 ATS in their last nine games overall and 0-5-1 ATS in the last six versus an AFC team.

The over/under trends are mixed. The under is 4-0 in Pittsburgh’s last four games on a Thursday, and it’s also 5-1-1 in the Titans last seven home games. But the Steelers tend to play over on the road (9-4 in L13), and the over is 3-1-1 in Tennessee’s last five games vs. the AFC.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Titans defense is horrible and has given up 30+ points to each of their 5 opponents. Pittsburgh doesnt play as well on the road either. Assuming that Tenn. can score 13 points or more, which I think they will, the over here looks like the obvious play. Take the OVER 43.

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