CHARGERS VS STEELERS NFL BETTING PICKS AND PREDICTIONS: TIGHT SPREAD FOR CLASH OF TWO OF AFC’S TOP TEAMS
Two of the AFC’s best teams do battle in prime time when the 7-3-1 Pittsburgh Steelers host the 8-3 Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night. Oddsmakers have the Steelers favored by a field goal in this tight matchup that could go a long way in determining playoff seeding. When break down the best ways to wager this pivotal AFC clash.
Phillip Rivers opened the Chargers’ last game by completing 25 consecutive passes (an NFL record) and while they didn’t score in the opening quarter in that game, they’ve been one of the best team’s in the league at getting off to good starts on the road. Only the Broncos and Chiefs score more than the Chargers’ 7.4 first quarter road points per game.
On the other side of the ball, we know Big Ben loves being in the national spotlight, going 22-4 at Heinz Field in prime time while averaging 285.9 passing yards per game. On the surface the Chargers have a good pass defense, but the only legit quarterbacks they have faced this year are Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and Russell Wilson and they averaged 281.7 passing yards and three passing touchdowns in those games. Both teams will get off to a good start in this one.
Prediction: Both teams to score in the first quarter (+125)
The Chargers first quarter success spills over into the second. Los Angeles ranks fourth in the league in first half scoring at a tick over 17 points per game over the opening two quarters and rank first when it comes to first half scoring on the road at 16.8 points per game. Losing Melvin Gordon to injury will be a blow, but Austin Eckler can fill in nicely especially in the pass game. And while the Steelers’ defense has good numbers against the pass as well, they haven’t faced a team in the top half in the league in passing since Week 5. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s offense really starts to get rolling in the second quarter, especially at home, where they notch 18.6 first half ppg.
In addition to setting the NFL record for consecutive completions to start a game, Rivers has been rolling since coming off their bye week. In the four games since he is completing just over 70 percent of his passes for 1,111 yards with nine touchdowns to three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 110.2. Over that span Rivers seems to have re-found his chemistry with wide out Keenan Allen. The star receiver is getting almost 10 targets a game in those games, hauling in 28 receptions for 342 yards and three scores. With Gordon out of this one, expect the Chargers to rely even more on the passing game, making Allen a good bet to go over his reception total in this one.
Prediction: Keenan Allen Over 6.5 receptions (+100)
The Steelers get stronger the longer games go on it seems. Even more so, when they’re playing at Heinz Field. Only the Rams score more second half points than the Steelers’ 16.8 per game. That’s thanks in large part to the fact that Big Ben is cookin’ right now. He has thrown for over 300 yards in three of his last four games, including his 462-yard performance in the loss at Denver last week.
Even so, the total in this matchup opened at 52.5 and is currently down to 51.5. That may be due to Gordon being out for the Chargers. It also may be because that even though this is a matchup of top 10 offenses that combine to score 56.6 points per game, oddsmakers may expect their top 10 defenses will clamp down in this close matchup. However, those defensive numbers may be a bit padded as both teams tend to beat up on lesser opponents.
Prediction: Over 51.5
Oddsmakers expect this to be a tightly contested game, as evidenced by the fact that this good Steelers team is only laying three points at home. The narrative here is the matchup of the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks taken in the same draft and while both should find success on Sunday night this will come down to which defense is able to make the most plays. Give the edge to the Chargers who rank 10th in turnover margin (+10) and sixth in interceptions (11), while the Steelers rank 26th in turnover margin (-7). And with Joey Bosa getting up to full speed (2 sacks last week) after missing most of the season with an injury we like the Chargers (4-1 ATS on the road) to keep this one close.