Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 7:00 PM
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered training camp knowing that they had some work to do to make up for last year’s disappointing run. They were supposed to be a perennial playoff team and Super Bowl threat. The 2012 version battled injuries and didn’t even make the playoffs. Worse, the long intimidating defense continued its alarming decline in the takeaway department. The team was gradually losing its identity.
Through a sluggish Preseason slate (0-4 straight up), and a pair of disappointing regular season outings…it’s clear that things are still trending very badly for Pittsburgh. The defense gets stops, but doesn’t set up cheap points with takeaways. The offense has new injuries to worry about….and that’s with the knowledge that currently healthy Ben Roethslisberger will take a big hit in the pocket soon and miss some time. That happens every year!
You get the sense that it’s now or never if the Steelers want to stem the tide. Pittsburgh hosts Chicago Sunday Night on NBC, and has been installed as a home underdog. You wouldn’t have imagined that last year, or really much of any time in the recent Roethlisberger era. But, there it is. Pittsburgh is getting points at home…meaning the market expects them to go 0-3 out of the gate. You don’t recover from 0-3 out of the gate!
Let’s review some quick facts to see if we can find any line value for you…
Won-Lost Records (opponents so far)
Chicago: 2-0 (Cincinnati and Minnesota)
Pittsburgh: 0-2 (Tennessee and Cincinnati)
Both teams played Cincinnati…and were competitive. The Bears won, though it was a very close game and they could easily have fallen. Pittsburgh ended up losing by 10…but you never felt like they were going to get blown out. The other games were non-covers for both…though Pittsburgh’s home loss to Tennessee is the biggest black eye in parenthesis.
Yards-Per Play to Date
Chicago: 5.8 on offense, 5.8 on defense
Pittsburgh: 4.4 on offense, 4.5 on defense
This is where things even up. The Bears are dead even despite being 2-0 at home. That means they’ll be vulnerable on the road if they don’t solve some surprising defensive issues. Pittsburgh is close to playing .500 caliber ball in this stat. The key of course is that “dead even” in YPP with a negative turnover differential makes you a losing team. Getting to face Jay Cutler may be just what the doctor ordered in that regard.
Chicago: 0-1-1 ATS (yet to cover in role of home favorite)
Pittsburgh: 0-2 ATS (with failing defense making it hard to cover)
The market has overrated both teams. That’s probably most important to remember with the road favorite Bears. It’s obvious that Pittsburgh hasn’t been meeting expectations. Chicago’s been celebrating after wins…but they’re not playing to market expectations either. Are they getting too much respect this week?
Current Line: Chicago by 2.5, total 40.5
If you assume home field advantage counts for three points, then the market is telling you Chicago would be -5.5 on a neutral field, and -8.5 at home. Cincinnati was only -6.5 or -7 this past Monday Night. That sets up the framework for this game. Oddsmakers and early bettors are testing the limits for measuring how far Pittsburgh has fallen. If you believe they’ve overshot the mark…then you want the home dog. Just remember that the home dog has had trouble scoring points this year! Do you want +2.5 if you’re side is only going to get 13-16 points on the board? Does that mean you should be thinking Under rather than team side?
JIM HURLEY studies every major TV game from every angle. Whether it’s a side, or a total, or a pass, he’ll make sure clients get the right choice. Chicago/Pittsburgh may or may not show up in a TV parlay this week (it’s likely at press time). You can purchase the final word for all of Sunday NFL here at the website with your credit card. If you prefer talking to a live person, call the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155 before kickoff Sunday to talk to a NETWORK representative.
Back with you tomorrow to preview Oakland at Denver in this week’s Sunday Night game. Even though the pointspread is big in that one…it’s a rivalry that matters to ownership and management of both teams. Might get interesting!
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