San Diego (4-5), +5, 42.5 O/U at Pittsburgh (6-3)
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, P.A., 4:15PM Eastern, Sunday (Week 11)
by Jay Horne of predictem.com
Playoff hopefuls are beginning to feel the late season pressure and such is the case for both the Chargers and the Steelers. San Diego strolls into this weekend one game behind the Denver Broncos while Pittsburgh finds themselves in a first place tie with the Baltimore Ravens. Both teams have to feel a need of urgency to start putting together a string of wins. A loss for either of these teams at this point in the season will make the playoffs that much harder to grasp as the season winds down.
Pittsburgh has to be considered a favorite to make the playoff contention this year at a mark of 6-3. Pittsburgh has been rather stable all year but they face a tough stretch a games in the upcoming weeks. The Steelers control their own destiny if they can simply win more games than they lose. One thing is for sure that over the next few weeks we should definitely see what caliber team Pittsburgh shapes out to be. The Steelers are fresh off a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts and have to consider this to be a big game to get back on track.
San Diego anticipated a much better season than they have had however the season can still be saved with over the next couple weeks. The Chargers held off Kansas City last week 20-19 and look to make it two in a row when they travel to Heinz Field. San Diego is in great position to put together a string of wins with a rather lighter schedule from here on out. The Chargers have to approach this game as a must win because a loss would set them back to 4-6 and perhaps too big a hole to dig out of.
Pittsburgh is led by QB Ben Roethlisberger who has completed 60% of his passes this season for nearly 1700 yards. Roethlisberger has had an uncharacteristic year throwing the ball. Big Ben has passed for 10 touchdowns but has also thrown for 11 interceptions. Roethlisberger has only thrown more than 11 picks once in his 5 seasons in the NFL and is already passing the 11 mark slightly after the half way mark for the year. The interceptions and turnovers for the entire Pittsburgh team must subside in order for them to reach the level of play they need. WR Hines Ward has been the go to receiver this season catching 5 TDs for 561 yards. Ward is a player that can really perform in clutch situations and worth keeping an eye on.
Chargers superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson has averaged more than that in his last 4 years as a Chargers running back. Tomlinson has not put up any numbers close to what he has accomplished in recent seasons only having 629 yards in 9 games. Tomlinson is averaging 3.8 yards per carry another statistic that is way down along with the fact he is getting less carries does not help either. Certainly San Diego must feel like if they can get Tomlinson running the football as effective as in the past, that they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL. San Diego has established a solid passing scheme but the problem has been the ground game. With perhaps the best running back in the NFL, one has to think that Tomlinson and the Chargers running game is going to start to come alive or will it?
Most books have the line favoring Pittsburgh by 5 points with the over/under total holding steady at 43.5. Moneyline numbers have Pittsburgh listed at -240 while Jacksonville stands at +200. Early betting action shows a strong proportion of the public at nearly 90% favoring the Pittsburgh Steelers to cover the points while nearly 75% of the public is favoring the over total.
The Chargers have been solid this season on offense averaging 349 yards per game ranking them 4th best in the AFC and in the top 10 in the NFL. San Diego has put together an effective passing game standing 6th best in the league at 253 yards per game through the air. The last two seasons San Diego has had one of the best rush offenses in the NFL, but this year things have changed dramatically. San Diego is only averaging 94 yards as team running the football.
Pittsburgh has not moved the ball as well as they may have hoped this season only averaging 288 yards per game. The Steelers have been outstanding on defense with arguably the best defense in the NFL. The Steelers have held teams to only 240 yards per game which is best in the league. On top of that the Steelers defense also leads the NFL in scoring defense holding teams to only 15 points per game. Numbers like those are incredible, that Championship caliber defense. Now if they could just get the offense rolling.
The Chargers are only 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games while the under total has been reached in 4 of those 5 games. Pittsburgh is only 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games at home. The Steelers have been on the over side in 9 of their last 13 games. Pittsburgh is 8-2 in their last 10 games ATS vs. San Diego and also 4-1 ATS vs. San Diego in their last 5 at home.
Jay’s Pick: Pitt in a romp.