The first Sunday Night Football game of the season on September 9th is a rematch of a Wild Card Playoff Game last year when the Pittsburgh Steelers went on the road as decided favorites and got knocked out by Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
Pittsburgh now returns to the same venue with revenge in mind, except unlike the playoff meeting, the Steelers are now much healthier and should have a better offensive line. Of course, the Broncos have a different look too with Peyton Manning at quarterback. This game is currently set at a Pick’em with a total of 44.
1. Why Pittsburgh will cover the spread: The Steelers will win this game if an offensive line rejuvenated with the drafting of David DeCastro and Mike Adams really is improved, and there is no reason to believe otherwise. The Steelers would prefer to return to smash-mouth football, but it is reassuring to know that Ben Roethlisberger will not get killed every time he is asked to throw as was the case for most of last season. More good news is that Mike Wallace is set to report this week and Rashard Mendenhall just came off of the PUP list. The receiving corps is excellent when Wallace starts opposite of Antonio Brown, and if Mendenhall cannot go in Week 1, Jonathan Dwyer has looked great behind the new offensive line in the preseason, so the offense should be ready to extract some revenge. There is also good news on the defensive side where James Harrison hopes to be back in time for this opener.
2. Why Denver will cover the spread: The Broncos will cover the spread if Manning is anywhere close to what he used to be before the neck surgeries, especially if he still has the knack for making the players around him better. He has a great receiver to throw to in Demaryius Thomas, whose 80-yard touchdown reception from Tebow on the first play of overtime beat the Steelers in the playoffs, and Eric Decker can also be a good receiver when he holds on to the ball. Perhaps Manning’s presence and better throws will help cut down on Decker’s drops. Denver also needs to keep running back Willis McGahee healthy as the back-up running back situation is a complete and utter mess right now.
3. Total Talk: We like the ‘under’ at 44 for a couple of reasons, not the least of which being that Manning started losing the zip on his longer passes in the latter part of the 2010 season, and the Steelers do not have the most comfortable defense to make a return against. Furthermore, Manning has looked quite mediocre in the exhibition season vs. lesser defenses than this one. Secondly, Pittsburgh’s improved offensive line and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s smash-mouth mentality seem like a marriage made in heaven that could lead to vintage power football like back in the Bill Cowher days.
4. Betting Trends for the game: The Steelers were a disappointing 2-7 ATS on the road last season, but the Broncos were an equally disappointing 2-7 ATS at home, including a dreadful 1-7 ATS throughout the regular season.
Pittsburgh 24 – Denver 16