While I'm sure the players themselves don't like playing on the Thanksgiving holiday, many owners around the NFL weren't happy that Detroit and Dallas got the national spotlight to themselves for a Turkey Day home game over the years. Well, the Lions and Cowboys were never about to give those up, and you don't want to rile up Dallas owner Jerry Jones. So the NFL a decade ago added a third game on the holiday, a prime-time matchup that will rotate around the league.
This Thanksgiving night's matchup looked like a great one between the Steelers and Colts and quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck -- but it's not looking good for Luck to play due to a concussion. I'll get into that in a minute.
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It's certainly an important game for both. The Steelers (5-5) were preseason favorites to win the AFC North and are currently tied with Baltimore atop the division. It might be division title or bust for those two as they are each two games behind the two current wild-card teams in the AFC, 7-3 Kansas City and Denver. Pittsburgh currently loses the head-to-head tiebreaker with Baltimore but hosts the Ravens on Christmas afternoon. This starts a tough three-game stretch against playoff-caliber teams for Pittsburgh with a home game vs. the Giants in Week 13 and a trip to Buffalo in Week 14. But the good news is that the Steelers close the season at home against pitiful Cleveland.
The Colts (5-5) were preseason favorites to win the AFC South, and they are now just a game behind Houston after the Texans were beaten by Oakland in Mexico City on Monday night (I recommended the Raiders to cover on my MNF preview and they did). Indy currently loses the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Texans but hosts Houston in Week 14. The Colts' season likely will be decided there and the following two weeks in Minnesota and in Oakland.
Steelers at Colts Betting Story Lines
It's the eighth all-time Thanksgiving game for Pittsburgh, which is 1-6 in its previous seven. The Steelers last played on the holiday in 2013 and lost a close game to Baltimore. Indianapolis is playing on Turkey Day for the fourth time and first since 2007 and is 2-0-1.
Indianapolis came out of its bye week on Sunday and beat Tennessee 24-17 for its second straight win and 11th in a row over the Titans -- Luck has never lost to them. The Colts jumped up 21-0 early in the second quarter on Luck's second TD pass of the game and basically held on. Whenever Luck was concussed, and he's currently in the league's protocol and thus highly unlikely to be ready for a quick turnaround game, he never came out. Luck was sacked twice and hit several other times behind his weak offensive line. The thinking is that Luck suffered the concussion when Titans defensive tackle Austin Johnson landed on top of him after recording a sack with 11:46 remaining in the game. Apparently Luck didn't start showing symptoms until after the game, so that's why he was never checked out on the sideline.
So presumably it will be Scott Tolzien under center on Thursday. He is 56-of-91 for 721 yards with a touchdown and five interceptions in six NFL career appearances. He has attempted only one pass since the 2013 season. Incidentally, starting safety Clayton Geathers also suffered a concussion vs. the Titans so he's surely out as well. Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 42-yard field goal on Sunday, snapping an NFL record of 44 consecutive made field goals.
Pittsburgh ended a puzzling four-game losing streak with a 24-9 victory at Cleveland on Sunday. Obviously any win in the NFL is a good victory, but only 24 points on that defense? It was the fewest points the Browns have given up all year. Ben Roethlisberger threw for only 167 yards with no TDs, but the running game was working with Le'Veon Bell carrying 28 times for 146 yards and a TD. He also had eight catches for 55 yards. Linebacker James Harrison (77.5 sacks) set the Steelers' all-time sack record in the contest, surpassing Jason Gildon (77).
Steelers at Colts Betting Odds and Trends
I usually go with 5Dimes on my lines for these previews because that site has very early alternate lines as well. However, as of this writing that's not the case because of Luck's status. In fact, I've seen this line at -3 at many books and as high as 7 at some of other sportsbooks listed at Doc's. I've also seen totals anywhere from 50.5 to 54. I'm going to assume this line is at 7 because I don't see Luck playing.
Pittsburgh is 5-5 against the spread this season (2-3 on road) and 3-7 "over/under" (1-4 on road). Indianapolis is 5-4-1 ATS (3-2 at home) and 7-3 O/U (2-3 at home). The Steelers are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 in November. The Colts have covered their past eight in November. They are 12-1-1 ATS in their past 14 on Thursday. Indy is 1-3-1 ATS in its past five after a win. The under is 7-2 in the Steelers' past nine on Thursday. The over is 7-2 in the Colts' past nine on Thursday. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings.
Steelers at Colts Betting Prediction
Other than a Week 1 win in Washington, the Pittsburgh offense has struggled on the road this year. But this Colts team hasn't been able to stop Big Ben & Co. of late. The Steelers embarrassed the Colts 51-34 in 2014 and followed it up with a 45-10 victory last season. Roethlisberger has gone 64-for-88 for 886 yards with 10 touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks in those two.
The Colts will honor recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison at halftime. I might have picked Indy to win with Luck, but this just isn't a good team without him. I'm sure you will be able to find a 6.5-point alternate line, so give that. Go under the total as I have little confidence in Tolzien doing much.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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