When the Steelers (5-3-1) go on the road to face the Chargers (5-4) in the penultimate game of NFL Week 11 on “Sunday Night Football” (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC), there will be major AFC wild-card implications at stake.
Pittsburgh, playing the tough AFC North, is trying to get closer to Baltimore and separate from Cincinnati and Cleveland. Los Angeles wants to keep putting heat on Kansas City and stay ahead of Las Vegas and Denver.
The Steelers will be getting QB Ben Roethlisberger back from the COVID-19 list after last week’s home tie with the Lions and wide receiver Chase Claypool (toe) should also return to help him in the lineup. But they will be down two key defenders, all-world edge rusher T.J. Watt (hip/knee) and savvy cornerback Joe Haden (foot).
The Chargers ara a little banged up all-around offensively, including QB Justin Herbert (oblique), but they also will without two key defenders, as both edge rusher Joey Bosa and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery are on the COVID-19 list.
Here’s everything to know about betting on Steelers vs. Chargers in Week 11, including updated odds, trends and our prediction for “Sunday Night Football.”
WEEK 11 NFL PICKS: Against the spread | Straight up
Steelers vs. Chargers odds for Sunday Night Football
The Chargers have seen the line grow in their favor to near a TD from 4 points early in the week despite the Tillery and Bosa situations because the Watt and Haden concerns on the other side far outweigh them. The over/under remains modest given the Steelers’ offensive limitations.
(betting odds per FanDuel Sportsbook)
Steelers vs. Chargers all-time series
The Steelers have dominated the series 24-10 over the years. They won the meeting two years ago, 24-17 in Los Angeles. They lost the 2018 meeting 33-30 in Pittsburgh. Overall, they have won 5 of 7 over the Chargers and 10 of 13, too.
Three trends to know
—61 percent of spread bettors think the Chargers aren’t that much better than the Steelers given the half-game separation and like the more popular road team to cover.
—64 percent of over/under bettors are taking into account some of the top offensive skill players on both teams and think the game will exceed the point total.
—The Steelers are only 3-7 against the spread while going 5-4-1 in their past 10 games, including playoffs. The total has gone over only three times in those games. The Chargers are 6-4 ATS and 6-4 SU in their past 10 games with the total going over only four times.
Three things to watch
Najee Harris’ rookie of the year run
Harris, the Steelers’ outstanding first-round feature running back, is the new centerpiece of their offense. He averages 24 touches and 107 yards per game. There’s no doubt the team will feed him often against the league’s worst run defense. He could have his biggest game yet when Pittsburgh needs him most in a tough spot.
Up or down Herbert?
The Steelers and Chargers have two of the league’s best pass defenses. The surprise is the Steelers also have struggled against the run, No. 25 in the NFL. Herbert has had a roller-coaster second season after shining as a rookie as teams are scheming to take the big play away from his laser arm. The Chargers are better positioned in the short-to-intermediate passing game with go-to running back Austin Ekeler and go-to wide receiver Keenan Allen, along with a tight end committee. The deep shots are also hurting as wide receiver Mike Williams, hot early in the season plays through lingering knee woes. Herbert must be patient and take what the Steelers give him, knowing no Watt and no Haden are big breaks.
Brandon Staley vs. Mike Tomlin
Staley is trying to become NFL coach of the year as a rookie. He would be the first Sean McVay protege to do so. He’s brought new energy to the Chargers but after tough recent losses to the Patriots and Vikings, he has a chance to reassert his sideline skills to flex against his experienced Super Bowl-winning defensive-minded counterpart, Tomlin. Staley needs to remind his players they are favorites in prime time and not let what should be a Steelers-leading loud crowd daunt them at home.
Stats that matter
155.1 and 206.0. The first number is the average rushing yards the Chargers have given up in games this season, No. 32 and last in the NFL. The latter number is the average passing yards they have given up, No. 4 in the NFL. The Steelers love to run with Harris given Roethlisberger’s arm limitations and aren’t best at stretching the field with their talented wide receivers. The Chargers should sell out to solve their biggest problem and force Big Ben to beat them by outdueling Herbert.
Steelers vs. Chargers prediction
The Steelers’ defense is strong by reputation but in its current state, can have major lapses in giving up chunk runs and big plays in the passing game. That doesn’t play well vs. Herbert, Ekeler and Allen. Harris keeps the Steelers in the game, but Herbert is set up to shine under the lights with a few big breaks.
Chargers 27, Steelers 20
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