NFL forecast: Big Ben, Steelers should bounce back

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

October 6, 2018 07:40 PM
BigBenone
Ben Roethlisberger ranks second in the NFL with 1,414 passing yards, but he was shut down by Baltimore last week.
© USA Today Sports Images

If Ben Roethlisberger is your fantasy quarterback, this is probably your lucky week. Maybe an injury could stop Big Ben from a monstrous bounce-back performance, but it’s highly unlikely the Atlanta defense will slow him down.

A focused favorite can be a good bet, and the Steelers, who are 0-2 in Pittsburgh and off a humbling loss to a division rival, fit the profile on Sunday.

The Steelers are producing more dramatic storylines than notches in the win column. As speculation swirls about problems in the relationship between Roethlisberger and his diva wide receiver, Antonio Brown told reporters, “Me and Ben laugh about you guys creating drama.”

Most of the laughing is coming from Baltimore and Cincinnati, where the AFC North co-leaders are enjoying Pittsburgh’s 1-2-1 record.

Roethlisberger ranks second in the NFL with 1,414 passing yards, yet Brown ranks 35th in receiving yards with just 272. In last week’s loss to the Ravens, the Steelers were shut out in the second half while being held to 47 total yards.

Get the popcorn ready because it will be a different story this week. The Falcons rank 30th in scoring defense, surrendering 30.5 points per game, and are decimated by injuries to their most talented players on all three levels on that side of the ball. The latest to fall by the wayside is dominant tackle Grady Jarrett. Atlanta allowed 37 and 43 points in its past two losses.

At the same time, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones could create a highlight reel against a weak Pittsburgh defense, and that’s why the total of 58 is the highest on the board.

In their past 22 games as home favorites, the Steelers scored at least 24 points 20 times. I’ll lay 3 points with Pittsburgh, but stay away if the number goes to 3½ because the back door will be open for Ryan.

Four more plays for Week 5 (home team in CAPS):

* Jaguars (plus-3) over CHIEFS: Jacksonville has one of the few defenses capable of containing Patrick Mahomes and his array of weapons — Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce. The Jaguars rank No. 1 in the NFL in total defense (259.3 yards per game) and scoring (14.0). Mahomes, who has 14 touchdown passes and no interceptions, directs an offense that is scoring 36.3 points to lead the league. Mahomes has been good enough to overcome Kansas City’s dreadful defense, which ranks last by allowing 451.8 yards per game. The Jaguars are 7-1 against the spread in their past eight as road ‘dogs, so go with the superior defense and take the points.

* BILLS (plus-5½) over Titans: It’s always tough to back bad teams, but this spot calls for a small play on the home underdog. Tennessee is reversing roles by laying points on the road after winning three in a row as a ‘dog. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is not lighting it up by any means, and Buffalo’s defense held much better Minnesota and Green Bay offenses to a total of 28 points in road games the past two weeks. The formula for a Bills cover should be defense, running the ball and rookie quarterback Josh Allen avoiding comical mistakes.

* Raiders (plus-5½) over CHARGERS: Those who lay points with Chargers, who are 7-15 ATS in their past 22 as home favorites, probably enjoy playing with poisonous snakes. And there is no true home-field advantage for the Chargers because the Raiders are more popular in Los Angeles. This shapes up as a Philip Rivers-Derek Carr shootout. Offense is not Oakland’s problem. Carr passed for 437 yards and four touchdowns while Marshawn Lynch carried 20 times for 130 yards against a quality Cleveland defense last week. In a game that likely goes to the wire, take the ‘home’ underdog.

* Redskins (plus-6½) over SAINTS: Drew Brees will target the NFL career passing yardage record on Monday night in New Orleans. But the Saints’ ability to run with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram will be a key to the outcome. Washington ranks No. 3 in total defense and has been strong against the run. The Saints’ worst performances so far were in the Superdome, where they were ambushed by the Buccaneers and barely survived an upset bid by the Browns. Alex Smith is one of the best ball-security quarterbacks in the league, and Adrian Peterson is off a 120-yard rushing effort against Green Bay. The Redskins, who have been off since Sept. 23, are typically best in the road ‘dog role.

Last week: 3-1-1 against the spread

Season: 11-8-1

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