At some point during this weekend the Saints should have a chat with the Steelers. Both times the Steelers have won the Super Bowl recently they have missed the playoffs the next year. New Orleans is obviously a long way from missing the playoffs, but if they don’t get their act together soon then they will be in danger of doing just that. Maybe Pittsburgh could tell them what to do - or more likely what not to do.
More than worrying about the Super Bowl hangover, though, the Saints need to worry about their offense - the one thing they haven’t had to worry about since Drew Brees arrived in town. Brees and the Saints have been wildly inconsistent on offense and they just haven’t recaptured the magic they had in the past. Turnovers have been a particular problem - including 14 in their last five games. Fumbles are common, and Brees has just one fewer interception now than he had all of last year. That has contributed to the significant fall in his QB rating form 109.6 last year to 91.4 so far this year.
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The biggest concern seems to be that the team doesn’t really know what is going wrong. The more they worry about what they are doing, they less effectively they will do it.
Pittsburgh is not going to be an easy opponent for New Orleans to get back on track against - if they couldn’t beat Cleveland then they have a real test here. Pittsburgh has the top scoring defense in the league, and with a turnover ration of +8 (second best in the league) they are positioned to exploit New Orleans’ biggest weakness. Ben Roethlisberger has been lights out since returning to action - he has five TD passes and a 122.4 passer rating in his two games back. He’s confident, and he has added a sorely missing passing element to an already effective run offense.
The Steelers are rolling, but the Saints need not give up all hope. Remember, Pittsburgh needed one of the oddest, most convoluted calls we have seen in a game recently to sneak out of Miami with a one-point win. Pittsburgh may be the most complete team in the NFL right now, but given how bizarre and unpredictable this season has been that’s not really saying much.
Steelers vs. Saints Betting Odds and Line Movement
The game opened with the Steelers favored by one or at ‘pick ‘em,’ depending on where you looked. It has swung quickly, and now the Saints are favored widely by one, with 1.5 not hard to find. Three-quarters of the bets on the game have been on the Steelers, so this line movement is unexpected. That suggests that there is some strong smart money action on the Saints. The total opened at 44 and has shown little interest in moving. It can be found in some places at 44.5, but a significant move is unlikely.
Steelers vs. Saints Betting Trends
Pittsburgh has gone ‘under’ in 13 of their last 18 as an underdog. They are 19-7 ATS in their last 26 games as an underdog, and 18-7-1 ATS in their last 26 when an underdog of three points or less.
New Orleans is 4-0 ATS in their last four home games against teams with a winning record, and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 overall against teams above .500. The ‘over’ is 18-7-1 in their last 26 against winning teams.
The Saints are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games following a straight up loss, but just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 following an ATS loss.
Pittsburgh is 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight, while New Orleans is a lousy 1-5 ATS in their last six.
Steelers vs. Saints Picks and Predictions
All signs seem to point to the Steelers in this one. They have been playing dramatically better, they have the better defense - one that is matched up against a struggling offense, and they have the momentum. Whenever a game seems that clear cut, though, I find myself feeling contrary.
New Orleans is at home, and they are a team that tends to bounce back pretty well from a setback - and losing at home to Cleveland is certainly a setback. Pittsburgh has the results this year, but their win over Miami wasn’t nearly as convincing as it could have been, and New Orleans is every bit the team that Miami is.
I respect Big Ben (on the field only), but I respect Brees more, and I expect him to be fully fired up for this opportunity. On top of all that, I find the line movement a pretty compelling reason to take the Saints. Everything has gone Pittsburgh’s way all year despite their setbacks, but that just can’t be the way all season.
The Steelers have gone ‘over’ in five of their last seven road games, and the Saints have gone ‘over’ in 18 of their last 26 at home. I feel like the number is pretty solid in this one, but I’ll lean to the ‘over’ just for those tendencies.