Monday Night Football Predictions: Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers Odds & Picks
by Alan Matthews - 10/16/2014
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a family-run organization, and the Rooneys have made the franchise one of the most stable in the NFL. For example, the Steelers have had just three head coaches since the 1970 merger: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin. All have been successful. However, I wonder if Monday could be the beginning of the end for Tomlin should Pittsburgh lose.
If the Steelers fired Tomlin, I have zero doubt he would be out of work for about 10 seconds. Tomlin has led the Steelers to two Super Bowls, winning it in 2008. However, since losing to Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV four years ago, the team has gone downhill. Pittsburgh won 12 games the next year but lost to the Denver Tebows in the wild-card game. The next two years, the franchise went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. At 3-3 this season, another 8-8 record and missed postseason could be in the cards. I'm not saying Tomlin will be fired, but I think the Rooneys at least think about it should that happen.
Incidentally, Bovada has a Week 7 special prop on the next coach to be fired after the Raiders canned Dennis Allen. Tomlin is not on that list. The Steelers would never do it during the season. The Jets' Rex Ryan was the 3/2 favorite heading into Thursday night's game in New England. Miami's Joe Philbin (4/1) and Buffalo's Doug Marrone (also 4/1) are next. All three will be elsewhere next season, which I'm sure of.
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers Betting Story Lines
Everyone loves offense these days. But if there's one reason to watch defense in the NFL in 2014 it's on display Monday night: Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. This guy might go down as one of the best defensive players in league history before all is said and done. Watt has been unbelievable this season. Despite constant double teams, he has 26 tackles, four sacks and six passes defensed. Oh, and three touchdowns, the most for any defensive lineman since Refrigerator Perry on that epic 1985 Bears defense. Of course, Perry got his as a running back. Watt has returned a fumble and interception for touchdowns and also caught a 1-yard TD pass on a gimmick play. Bovada has two interesting props on him this week: Watt is -140 to win Defensive Player of the Year, and I think that's pretty much a lock barring injury. "No" is even money. And Watt has an "over/under" of 4.5 total touchdowns this season, with "under" a -140 favorite. Think you have to lean under there.
Houston enters having lost two straight and three of four. It played last Thursday in Indianapolis and fell 33-28. The Colts led 24-0 after one quarter, but Houston got within the final score with just under 11 minutes left in the game when Watt returned a fumble 45 yards for a score. However, the Texans would then lose two fumbles when trying to drive for a winning score. Houston is fine running the ball with Arian Foster, but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is no good. The Houston defense could get a huge boost Monday with the return of preseason Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite Jadeveon Clowney. He had knee surgery after the season opener and was ruled out 4-6 weeks. This would be Week 5. He's 50/50 to play at the moment.
Pittsburgh has alternated wins and losses all season, so that bodes well here considering the Steelers lost 31-10 last week in Cleveland. It was just the Browns' third win in the past 23 games in that "rivalry." Ben Roethlisberger fell to 18-2 all time vs. Cleveland. He has led the Pittsburgh offense to only 20 total points the previous two games against poor Browns and Jaguars defenses. The Steelers are 31st in red zone efficiency this season, scoring a touchdown just 36.8 percent of the time. Pittsburgh has a very solid running back tandem in Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount -- each is averaging at least 5.2 yards per carry -- but no receiver scares a team other than Antonio Brown. The Steelers are moving the ball, ranking sixth in the NFL with 396.5 yards per game. But they are No. 23 in scoring.
The Steelers will likely be without two defensive starters again this week in nose tackle Steve McLendon and rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier. McLendon was hurt last week, while Shazier hasn't played since Week 3. He's close, though, and there's an outside chance he plays Monday.
Pittsburgh and Houston haven't played since 2011.
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers Monday Night Football Betting Odds and NFL Trends
At 5Dimes , Pittsburgh is a 3-point favorite (-120) with alternate lines of 3.5 (+105) and 2.5 (-145). The Steelers are -175 on the moneyline and Texans +155. The total is 44.5 (both -110). Houston is 4-2 against the spread this season (2-1 on road) and 3-3 O/U (2-1 on road). Pittsburgh is 2-4 ATS (0-2 at home) and 3-3 O/U (2-0 at home).
The Texans are 0-6 ATS in their past six Monday games. Pittsburgh has covered its past four following a game in which it allowed more than 30 points. The Steelers are 5-2 ATS in their past seven October games. The under is 5-1 in Houston's past six after a loss. The under is 7-0 in Pittsburgh's past seven in October. The under is 5-1 in the Steelers' past six on Monday.
Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers Expert Picks and Monday Night Football Betting Predictions
These teams are fairly similar. Think Houston certainly has more talent, but you have to give the Steelers the edge at quarterback. This is one of those matchups where I'd simply take the home team. I'm doing so here, but at the 2.5-point line. Go under.
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