NFL forecast: Big Ben should win duel in Pittsburgh

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

December 2, 2018 07:15 AM
Ben Roethlisberger passed for 462 yards a week ago against the Broncos, but he tossed two picks as the Steelers were sabotaged by four turnovers.
© USA Today Sports Images

A week after he threw a bizarre goal-line interception in a costly loss, Ben Roethlisberger needs to make amends and the Pittsburgh Steelers need a bounce-back win.

It’s not going to be easy against the red-hot Philip Rivers in a quarterback duel fit for prime time.

The Steelers, who had their six-game win streak stopped in Denver, opened as 3½-point home favorites over the Chargers. The hook has disappeared due to sharp money showing on the ‘dog.

Rivers was incredible a week ago, completing 28 of 29 passes in a blowout of Arizona, and has been sharp all season. The L.A. quarterback has the NFL’s third-best passer rating (115.7) to go with 26 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 69.5. A major part of his success is a low number of interceptions (six).

Roethlisberger hit on 41 of 56 passes for 462 yards against the Broncos, but he tossed two picks as the Steelers were undone by four turnovers.

Pittsburgh has covered three straight at home. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, the Steelers have been home favorites 27 times and scored 24 points or more in 24 of those games. On the flip side, Rivers is typically at his best as a road underdog, posting a 24-11-1 ATS mark in that role in the past six seasons.

But Rivers is without an important weapon Sunday. Running back Melvin Gordon suffered a knee injury last week and will be out two to three weeks. The Chargers (8-3) would have been wise to sit Gordon with bigger games looming in the stretch run, but that’s hindsight.

The Steelers (7-3-1) must take care of business now because their schedule is getting serious with the Patriots visiting in Week 15 before a trip to New Orleans in Week 16. Pittsburgh is the play as a 3-point favorite.

Four more coin flips for Week 13 (home team in CAPS):

* Browns (plus-5½) over TEXANS: During an eight-game win streak, Houston is 5-3 ATS. The Texans are living lucky, but they deserve credit for being good, too, mostly due to their strong defensive front and improving quarterback Deshaun Watson. Since a coaching change, Cleveland is 2-1 straight up and ATS, losing only to Kansas City. Baker Mayfield completed 73.8 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and one interception in those three games. The Browns, unlike last year, look like live ‘dogs.

* Bills (plus-4) over DOLPHINS: Buffalo allows 305 yards per game to rank No. 2 in the league in total defense. This game is more important to Miami coach Adam Gase and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but the Dolphins have a much weaker defense and a weak track record in this AFC East series. The Bills are 7-3 ATS in the past 10 meetings while covering three of their past five in Miami.

* PATRIOTS (-5) over Vikings: A week after he was rattled by the Chicago defense, Kirk Cousins bounced back by ripping the Packers and passing for 342 yards and three touchdowns. A majority of sharps seem to see value in the ‘dog here, but the Patriots might be about to peak now that Tom Brady’s offense is at full strength. Sony Michel rushed for 133 yards on 21 carries and Rob Gronkowski returned with a touchdown catch last week. New England often has problems covering numbers on the road, yet coach Bill Belichick is 4-1 ATS at home this season and 10-2 ATS in his past 12 at Gillette Stadium. The price on the Patriots looks cheap.

* Redskins (plus-6½) over EAGLES: Philadelphia is 0-5 ATS as a home favorite since covering in the season opener. The Eagles are depleted in the secondary, but can Colt McCoy take advantage? McCoy has turnover issues, unlike Alex Smith, but Washington can win with him. Philadelphia has scored more than 25 points only once all season. Expect the ‘dog to put up a fight in a game both teams need in the NFC East race.

Last week: 3-2 against the spread

Season: 30-29-1

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