Monday Night Football Picks: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans Odds
by Alan Matthews - 11/14/2014
How much fun is the AFC North? Entering Week 11, every team in the North had a winning record. It's the first division in which every team is at least two games above .500 at any point in a season since the 1935 NFL Western Division. That stat totally shocks me.
So I give you the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are 6-4 entering Monday night's game at Tennessee. With a win here the Steelers could find themselves alone atop the division as the only team with seven victories. Or with a loss could be in last as the only club with five defeats. Baltimore (6-4) is off this week, but it's possible that Cleveland (6-3) loses in a potential trap game Sunday at home to Houston, and the Bengals (5-3-1) are underdogs at New Orleans. I expect Cincinnati to drop that one.
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At Bovada , the Ravens and Browns are +250 to win the division, with the Bengals and Steelers at +275. Cincinnati is the only team with just one division loss, while the Ravens have three. Pittsburgh has split with the Browns and Ravens and still faces the Bengals twice.
As for Tennessee? They won't admit it of course, but the Titans (2-7) already are playing out the string. Frankly, it would be better to lose out and get as high a draft pick as possible. I would bet the farm that new coach Ken Whisenhunt insists the franchise take a quarterback with its first-round pick. Everyone assumes the Raiders (0-9) and Jaguars (1-9) will finish with the worst two records. They likely wouldn't take a QB as Oakland took Derek Carr in the second round in May and Jacksonville definitely won't after taking Blake Bortles at No. 3. If the Titans want their pick of the QBs, with Oregon's Marcus Mariota the presumed No. 1 guy, then they need to finish worse than the Bucs (1-8) and Jets (2-8), both of whom likely also want quarterbacks. Tennessee didn't play Tampa this year for a possible tiebreaker but hosts the Jets in Week 15 and visits Jacksonville, which it beat on Oct. 12, in Week 16. Those are must-lose games if I'm a Titans fan!
Steelers at Titans Betting Story Lines
The Steelers got caught in a major letdown game last Sunday, falling 20-13 at the New York Jets. You could really see that coming. Pittsburgh had won three straight and averaged 41.3 points in that stretch, but those were all at home. The Steelers have played well on the road just once all year: a 37-19 victory in Carolina in Week 3. They also won Week 5 at Jacksonville, but that was ugly. Ben Roethlisberger is completing 72.5 percent of his passes with 18 TDs, one pick and a rating of 130.5 at home this year. On the road, it's 64.4 percent, five TDs, four picks and a rating of 83.6.
Pittsburgh will be missing four defensive starters for this one: nose tackle Steve McLendon, rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier, cornerback Ike Taylor and safety Troy Polamalu. The latter three aren't a big surprise as they were ruled out early this week. Shazier and Polamalu missed last week, and Taylor hasn't played since Sept. 21 but is getting close to returning from a broken forearm. McLendon was ruled out Thursday. He re-aggravated a shoulder injury against the Jets that cost him two earlier games. Rookie Daniel McCullers will make his first start. He was a sixth-round pick in May and is a giant at 6-foot-7, 352 pounds. He was taken more as a project. McCullers played 10 snaps last week.
The Titans' offense continued to sputter in a 21-7 loss in Baltimore last week out of Tennessee's bye. Predictably, rookie QB Zach Mettenberger struggled in his first career road start against a desperate Ravens team, going 16 of 27 for 179 yards and an interception. Tennessee had 68 total yards after the first quarter and didn't get its initial first down of the second half until 4:37 was left in the game. The Titans haven't topped 17 points in their past four games, the last three of which are losses.
Tennessee could be without two offensive contributors in running back Dexter McCluster and tight end Delanie Walker. McCluster has 24 carries for 76 yards and 16 catches for 136 yards. He's been a disappointment as a free agent from Kansas City. Walker will really be missed if out as he has 64 targets, 38 catches, 512 yards and four scores. The Titans had all of two first downs after Walker's left last week's game late in the second quarter against the Ravens and never crossed midfield again. Richard Gordon, Chase Coffman and Brett Brackett are the only other current tight ends. Coffman is the only one with a catch this season. He has two for 18 yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans Monday Night Football Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Pittsburgh is a 7-point favorite (+110) with alternate lines of 6.5 (-105), 6 (-110) and 5.5 (-118). The Steelers are -255 on the moneyline with the Titans at +215. The total is 46.5. Pittsburgh is 5-5 against the spread (2-3 on road) and 6-4 "over/under" (1-4 on road). Tennessee is 2-6-1 ATS (0-3-1 at home) and 3-6 O/U (2-2 at home).
Pittsburgh is 4-1 ATS in its past five after a loss. Tennessee is 4-0 ATS in its past four on Monday. It has covered only seven of its past 27 at home. The Titans have covered just three of their past 17 overall. The over is 5-1 in the Steelers' past five following a loss. The under is 8-3 in the Titans' past 11 overall. However, the over is 8-1 in their past nine after scoring fewer than 15 points in the previous game. The underdog has covered five of the past six meetings.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans Monday Night Football Picks and Betting Predictions
For what it's worth, and I don't think much, Tennessee won 16-9 in Pittsburgh to open last season. That was considered a pretty big upset at the time. The Steelers had just 194 yards, with Roethlisberger throwing for 191 and getting sacked five times. The Titans, with Jake Locker at QB, had only 229 yards. The Steelers hadn't lost a home opener in a decade.
There is one big statistic that goes against each side here. Mike Tomlin's Steelers have had more road losses against teams with five or fewer wins than other NFL team since 2007. Who keeps track of this stuff? Obviously early in the season that doesn't matter, but later it's revealing. Meanwhile, rookie quarterbacks have won just two of 17 games against the Steelers since 2004, the year Dick LeBeau returned to Pittsburgh for a second stint as the defensive coordinator. LeBeau likes to blitz the rookies.
It's going to be cold in Nashville, with temperatures in the low 20s. If the Steelers hadn't gagged last week I would have given the Titans a shot to pull the upset here. Now I don't see a chance as I expect a very focused Pittsburgh squad. Give the 5.5-point alternate line, and most definitely go under.
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