Friday, December 14, 2012

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Dallas Cowboys: PIT -1 (Pinnacle)

Markets

NFL Picks 2012: Steelers vs Cowboys
There isn't much to analyze in terms of knee-jerk reactions here because Vegas had this game off the board last week.  When the lines came out on Sunday, the Cowboys were actually favored by -1.  Since then we've seen a line move in favor of the road team as the Steelers now sit between -1 and -2 favorites, depending on where you shop.  This is a two or three point move, but since it crossed the dead number of zero, it's not that significant.  The loss that the Steelers had against the Chargers does provide us with a bit of value here, because I don't expect a repeat performance come this Sunday.  I like Pittsburgh at anything under -3.

Matchups

In the first time since early October, Harrison, Polamalu, and Woodley will all be in the starting lineup this weekend.  Normally, injuries are overrated in football, but when you consider how impactful these players are as a trio, it can be significant.  They are also the leaders of an aging, veteran unit all well-versed in Lebeau's scheme.  The downside are the injuries at the cornerback position.  Dez Bryant is playing through an injury himself, but he's been on fire of late.  The Cowboys also rely much more heavily on the pass than the run.  Defensively, the Steelers are an above average squad, but getting to the QB and coming away with turnovers continue to be an issue.  Yet, I like their chances in this game thanks to the identity that is the Dallas offense.  Regardless of what they say in the press or what they do in practice, they are among the league leaders in offensive penalties. Romo has played well, but he's not a guy I trust in the big games.  He could be good for a couple turnovers against Lebeau's complicated schemes.

The bigger issue is what the Cowboys will do to stop Big Ben and the Pittsburgh running game.  Yes, the Steelers haven't been able to run the ball consistently, but Dallas have big injuries at most of the interior positions.  This could open up a much more balanced approach from the Steelers.  When Ben went down, I had to downgrade not only the QB position, but almost every other area of their offense - passing, drive success rates, third down conversion percentage, and red zone scoring efficiency.  With him back in the lineup, they once again become lethal in all those areas.  How will the Cowboys approach this?   Blitz?  Load up in coverage?  Either way, Ben can hurt you.

Bottom Line

Throw the Chargers game out the window. This Sunday should be a showcase of what Pittsburgh do best, which is grind out opponents and come up big when the game is on the line. The Cowboys are almost at the opposite end of the spectrum in this regard.  Jason Garrett is likely on his way out, and he's about to get outcoached once again this weekend.  Dallas is also 0-6 against the spread at home this year.

NFL Pick: PIT -1.