Week 13 of the NFL Sunday slate concludes in Pittsburgh as the 7-3-1 Steelers play host to the 8-3 Chargers. Both of these teams feature prominently in the AFC playoff picture and will be desperate for a win here to help further their seeding. Pittsburgh has been in excellent form of late, winning 6 of their last 7 games to take the sole lead in the AFC North. The Chargers have gone 1 better, winning 7 of their last 8 to establish themselves as the top wildcard in the AFC. With so much on the line at Heinz Field on Monday, let’s break down our 3 best bets on the board.
Where to Watch: ESPN, 7 Mate or NFL Game Pass Monday 12:20 pm
The 7-3-1 Steelers enter this one off their first loss in 7 weeks, falling by 7 points in Denver last week. QB Ben Roethlisberger has had another outstanding year in his age 36 season, throwing for over 3600 yards and 24 touchdowns so far. RB James Conner has also done an admirable job replacing Le’Veon Bell, totalling over 1300 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns on the campaign. In JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown, the Steelers also have one of the premier receiving duos in the league that really help open up this offence.
The Steelers defence has also noticeably approved this season, allowing 24 or less points in each of their last 7 games. They’ve done an especially effective job in pass defence, allowing less than 200 pass yards against Denver last week. This defensive upswing has been driven by strong performances from their front seven, led by Jon Bostic and Cameron Heyward. It’s been the Steelers defence that has prevented them from reaching the Superbowl in recent seasons and a big performance here will help further their standing in a competitive AFC.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers make the trip to Pittsburgh at an impressive 7-3, rebounding off a loss to Denver with a thumping 45-10 win over Arizona last week. QB Phillip Rivers was almost perfect, completing 28/29 passes for 259 yards and 3 touchdowns. RB Melvin Gordon also had another strong day before his injury, rushing for 6 yards per carry and two touchdowns. In Keenan Allen, the Chargers have a legitimate #1 wideout capable of giving opposing defences fits. Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin and the veteran Antonio Gates are all excellent complementary weapons for Rivers.
Defensively, the Chargers have also been outstanding so far this season. They’ve allowed under 20 points in 6 of their last 7 games, which has proven more than enough to win with their offensive form. They completely shut down the anaemic Arizona offence last week. The Cardinals could only manage 62 yards per ground on 2.6 yards per carry and 105 passing yards on 5.5 yards per attempt. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram have combined for one of the premier edge rushing duos in the league, whilst rookie Derwin James has been a revelation at Safety.
The Steelers have been in excellent form of late, comfortably covering 5 of their last 7 games. When fully motivated, I believe this team has a strong talent edge over the Chargers. With the Ravens only 1.5 games back and the #2 seed in the AFC up for grabs, I just can’t see Pittsburgh laying an egg in this one. Even against a strong Chargers defence, the Steelers have the offensive firepower to put up points in this one.
Another commonly overlooked factor is the Steelers dominance at Heinz Field. One of the best home-field advantages in the entire NFL, the Steelers have an outstanding home primetime record with Tomlin and Roethlisberger at the helm. 3.5 points indicates that they have a clear matchup advantage and I think this is warranted. Under the key numbers of 4, 6, and 7, I’m very confident taking Pittsburgh here.
Over 51 Points
Based on their early season performances, I think this is a very strong line set by the bookies here. Both defences have performed solidly and outclassed lesser opposition. That said, it’s a while since either of these sides has come across an offence as talented as their opposition this week. The numbers suggest that both of these teams are more talented offensively than defensively, a sentiment that I’d agree with.
Pittsburgh has an excellent offensive line and I believe they can withstand ferocious pressure from the Chargers defensive front. Brown and Smith-Schuster are a matchup advantage against any secondary and I also expect RB James Conner to have another big day. In more of a shootout situation, I expect Phillip Rivers and the Chargers offense to let loose. Rivers is a capable veteran QB that won’t be phased by the tough Pittsburgh crowd here. If he can lead this offense to 24-27 points, I expect this one to sail over.
First TD Scorer: Antonio Brown
One of the premier receivers in the NFL over the last 6 seasons, we’ve come to expect excellence from the 30-year-old Brown. He’s averaged 11 touchdowns over his last 4 campaigns and already has 11 touchdowns this season. Whilst JuJu Smith-Schuster has emerged as a capable complementary option, Brown is still the top dog in Pittsburgh. Prior to last week, Brown had scored at least 1 touchdown in his past 8 games, a sign of his incredible consistency. I expect Pittsburgh to establish the pass in this one and Brown is a threat from anywhere. At any price $6 or above, this is a play I see strong value in.
Score Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers 31-24 Los Angeles Chargers