San Diego Chargers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Preview and Pick – AFC Divisional Playoffs

San Diego Chargers (9-8) +6, 38 O/U at Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
-6, 38 O/U, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa., 4:45 PM Eastern, Sunday, CBS

by Badger of

The fourth and finale rematch of the NFLs Divisional Round weekend takes place at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh when the Steelers host the San Diego Chargers in an AFC battle Sunday afternoon on CBS.

The Chargers will be making a return trip to the site of the NFLs
first and only game with an 11-10 final score, a game the Steelers
won on a ninth-inning run back on November 16th. Alright, so it
wasnt a ninth-inning run, but a late 32-yard field goal by the
Steelers Jeff Reed with 15 second remaining on the clock that
provided the slim margin of victory.

The Chargers moved into the Divisional Round with a 23-17 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts last Saturday. Shifty running
back Darren Sproles broke loose for a 22-yard touchdown scamper eight
minutes into the extra session to give the Chargers the hard-fought
victory over the Colts.


The Steelers took advantage of the extra week off the first-round bye afforded them by allowing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to rest his
weary body and head. Roethlisberger was knocked out of the Steelers
31-0 week 17 victory over the Cleveland Browns with a concussion and
was carted off on a stretcher. He resumed practice this week and
appears to be a go for the Steelers tilt on Sunday.

Oddsmakers opened the game with the Steelers as 6-point favorites and
the point spread has held firm throughout early betting at the
window. There are a few sportsbooks in Las Vegas, namely the Hilton
and the Mirage, that list the Steelers as 6.5-point favorites.

The over/under total opened at 39, and due to what forecasters are
calling a chance of cold and inclement weather, the total has dropped
to 38.5 or 38 at most offshore sportsbooks. The
moneyline bet shows Pittsburgh as -200 favorites, with the Chargers
as +210 underdogs.

The Chargers will no doubt need to lean on Sproles some more on offense this week, as stud running back LaDainian Tomlinsons groin
injury is not getting much better. Tomlinson called the injury the
toughest hes ever faced in his career, and spent three quarters on
the sideline during the Colts game last weekend watching. Sproles
ended with 105 yards and two scores, so hes more than adequate for
the Bolts in reserve.

They will need everything they can possibly get from Sproles and the rest of the offense because they will be facing the NFLs top-ranked
defense in the Steelers (allow 237.3 ypg; 13.9 ppg). When these two
teams met back in November the Chargers were only able to rush for 66
yards on 22 carries, and the passing game only mustered 147 yards on
26 attempts, so expect much of the same when AP Defensive Player of
the Year James Harrison, safety Troy Polamalu and the rest of the
Steelers defense take the field.

The health of Roethlisberger will be the key for the Steelers offense on Sunday. He had one of his best games of the season last time these
two played (31-of-41, 308 yards), but he was unable to put the ball
in the end zone as the Steelers were held to three field goals and a
safety in the game. Running back Willie Parker ran for 115 yards in
the game and he appears to be back to full strength from his injury
issues, so expect the Chargers run defense (allow 102.6 ypg 11th)
to get a major dose of Parker in the game.

However, the Chargers pass defense is their weak link (247.4 ypg 31st; gave up 310 passing yards versus the Colts), so Roethlisberger may get another 41 attempts in this game as well as the Steelers will
try to take advantage of the weakness with their offensive game plan.

Pittsburgh has owned the head-to-head series with the Chargers of
late, winning five of the last six meetings between the two including
all three played at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh has also covered the
point spread in four of the last six meetings as well, although the
Chargers have covered the last two including the earlier meeting this
season as 4.5-point road dogs. All told, the favorite is a solid 5-2
ATS the last seven times theyve gotten together between the lines.

Picking a side is a little tougher this week since both teams are on
a good roll for bettors of late. The Chargers have covered all but
one of the games in their current five-game winning streak (8-8-1 ATS
for the season), while the Steelers have covered five of the last six
games (9-7 ATS) with the lone exception being the showdown loss to
the Titans in week 16.

Picking a betting trend to place your money on in regards to the total is difficult as well, because both teams are trending in
opposite directions. The Chargers have come in under the total in
seven of their last eight January games, in seven of their last 10
games versus an AFC foe, and in five of their last six playoff games.
But the Steelers have come in over the total in seven of their last
eight home playoff games and in 10 of their last 12 playoff games in

Badgers Pick: The public seems to have fallen in love with the
California team, as the Chargers are getting 56 percent of the side
and are even seeing a little bit of moneyline action in the game. They also seem to
feel the under will cash in, as 74 percent of the action on the total
is on the under. The Chargers offense is banged up, their defense is
the weakest unit remaining in the playoffs and at some point, five
straight weeks of playoff-type win or go home stress is bound to
catch up to them. Steelers win and cover the 6 points, and a late
field goal puts this game over the low 38-point total. Take
Pittsburgh and the under.