Friday, September 21, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Oakland Raiders: PIT -3.5 (5Dimes)

Markets

The early line in this game was Steelers -3.  Last week's look-ahead line was -3.5. This week it opened at -4, but has been bet down to -3.5.  That's a curious move, but I'm sure sharp money is looking at this as a tough spot for Pittsburgh - who haven't done particularly well traveling out West.  I thought there was some merit to that thought and when you combine the injuries to James Harrison and Troy Polamalu, I didn't want to get involved in this game.

Then I got a tweet from Raider fan Jasen,
I didn't even want to look at this game unless the line hit -3, but I decided to go back and take a closer look.  Sometimes we out-think ourselves with that half point hook, but after reviewing this game again I'm going to go ahead and lay the points here.

Could the Raiders have the Worst Secondary in the League?

I already had questions about Shawntae Spencer and Ron Bartell entering the season, and now with both on the sidelines I have very little doubt that Big Ben is poised for a big day.  Now the Raiders are rolling with Pat Lee, Joselio Hanson, and even Michael Huff at cornerback!  Good grief.  Hanson is best suited for the slot, but even there he hasn't been good for the last couple years.  He got cut this year in favor of a rookie.  This is a secondary that made Ryan Tannehill look like a seasoned pro.

The only hope the Oakland defense has is if they can make it a miserable day for Big Ben.  I certainly don't think Pittsburgh's O-line is anything special, but Ben has been killing people on third down this year with his ability to buy time and keep plays alive.  If those Raiders corners have to cover for more than three and a half seconds they are done.  They might be done even without the extra time since Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, and Emmanuel Sanders will be coming at you at every angle.

The worse news is the Raiders can't even stop the run this year.  They made Reggie Bush look like Barry Sanders and if that continues the Steelers will be able to dictate on offense without much of a push-back. 

Heath Miller practiced healthy which is a big boost given how important he is to a Todd Haley offense.  He rarely comes off the field, if at all.

Carson Palmer, Really?

If you're a Raider fan, let me get my apologies out of the way up front.  I'm sorry, but this guy flat out sucks.  Is he capable of having a good day?  Sure.  Want to part money on it?  I wouldn't think so.

I thought Oakland would be more competitive simply having a healthy Darren McFadden, but he can't get going behind a disappointing offensive line and no one is respecting the passing game.  This is allowing defenses to crowd the line and stop the dynamic back.

Last week the Steelers proved that you don't need all-pros leading the way to slow down a putrid passing attack, and I expect more of the same this week.  I trust Dick Lebeau to scheme this Raiders offense into tough situations and likely a few mistakes.

Carson Palmer just isn't a good fit for the West Coast Offense right now.  His wide receivers don't scare anyone and remain inconsistent.  Palmer isn't very smooth out of the pocket, and he still tries to fit too many balls into tight coverages.  Even if they do manage to make this a knock-down-drag-out fight, I have little faith that Palmer is going to lead them to a winning drive - or a backdoor cover for that matter.

Bottom Line

This is a complete fade of Oakland.  Things aren't all perfect in Pittsburgh, but they should have enough to get a healthy lead in this one given their large advantage in the air on both sides of the ball. Look for more growing pains for Raider-Nation until further notice.

NFL Pick: PIT -3.5.

The rest of my Week 3 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.