Thursday, November 14, 2013

NFL Predictions 2012 Week 11: Lions vs Steelers

Detroit Lions vs Pittsburgh Steelers: DET -1 (-120) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

So at what point did the betting world think that the Steelers should be a respected team? Last week I highlighted a tweet that outlined how Pittsburgh have been the third worst team in the NFL since Week 11 of last season. Yet, this is a point spread that can't even make it to Lions -3.

The strange thing is this line was Detroit -2.5 last week in the LVH look-ahead line, before the Steelers beat the Bills. It reopened at -3 after the weekend, but early money quickly brought it back down to -2.5.

Some books are keeping this game out of the teaser window at -1 for a bit of extra juice, but most shops have it at -2.5. There is value on anything less than a field goal, and even at -3 I would probably play this.

79% of the bets are also on Detroit thus far.

Keep an eye on

The troubling downward trend for Big Ben on third down continued last week. He did go 5 for 9 for 82
yards and four first downs, but he also took four sacks on those plays. Ben's elusive and lethal threat on third down is not showing up with any sort of consistency in 2013. The Lions defense also happen to be one of the best units in the NFL in this area, and there are no signs that that will change anytime soon.

The Steelers are going to have their hands full against a disruptive defensive line. The sacks haven't been there (yet), but the pressure has. Last week Young, Fairley, and Suh made life miserable for both Chicago QBs. It's no secret the Steelers have offensive line issues, so this will be a featured matchup on Sunday. It doesn't bode well given the fact that Ben holds the ball too long and isn't shredding would-be tacklers like he used to.

The running game has picked up with Bell in the backfield, but Tulloch is coming off a fantastic game at middle linebacker and should be able to make some stops. Complicating matters, Heath Miller hasn't played very well since returning from injury - especially in run blocking.

Even worse, the area that seems the weakest for the Steelers is on the other side of the ball. The Lions have had one of the better red zone offenses all year and Stafford kept that trend up last week going 3 for 5 inside the 20 for 23 yards and three touchdowns. It's one thing to shut down E.J. Manuel and company, but this Lions offense is a whole other story.

Who cares if Polamalu, Clark, Taylor, and Gay had great numbers against the Bills. How will they shut down Calvin Johnson?  Is there enough speed on the Steelers defense to contain Bush out of the backfield?  Can they generate enough pass rush to disrupt Stafford's timing?

The answer to these questions is a resounding "no". Other than the magic of Dick Lebeau, I don't see how Pittsburgh win with this defense. They might be able to scheme their way to success against lesser offenses, but this week they will need to pick their poison, and they don't match up well in any area.

Bottom Line

Pittsburgh do have home field advantage, and they will win this game if Big Ben improves on third down, they win in the trenches on both sides, and Calvin Johnson sits out.

That's a lot of "ifs". Give me the Lions in one of the better value bets on the board in Week 11.

NFL Pick: DET -1.