Expert's Final Thoughts On Steelers vs. Broncos Playoffs Matchup

Kevin Stott

Saturday, January 16, 2016 7:40 PM GMT

Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers hobble into Denver on Sunday to face Peyton Manning and the AFC’s top-seeded Broncos at Sports Authority Field. Who should we back with our NFL picks?

***ATS NFL Picks For Divisional Playoffs***
***O/U NFL Picks For Divisional Playoffs***
***ML NFL Picks For Divisional Playoffs***

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NFL Picks: Steelers +9, 1st Quarter Under 7½ -145
Best Line Offered: at Bovada 

 

In this game the visitors and head Coach Mike Tomlin will have to play without the services of their two best RBs (Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams) and their best, and the NFL’s most productive WR (Antonio Brown). So can Big Ben and the gridiron group from the Steel City head into the Rockies and shock the world like The Walking Dead in this AFC Divisional game? Let’s head back into The lab and see if there is anything to grab onto and try to make a hesitant NFL pick or two in this strange game in the Rocky Mountains where backup QBs may end up playing a huge role in who advances to the AFC Championship Game.

 

Odds Overview
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos [Sunday 21:40] (CBS (US), Sky Sports 2/HD (UK), 4:40 p.m. EST/1:40 p.m. PST): It looks like QB Ben Roethlisberger will be playing for the #6-seed Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6 SU, 9-7-1 ATS) on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Desso GrassMaster) in Denver (Partly Cloudy, 36°, Winds W 4-9 mph, Humidity 44%, Wind Chill 30°) against 39-year-old Peyton Manning and the AFC West champion and host Broncos (12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS) in the second AFC Divisional Round Playoff game of the weekend. Current NFL odds (Saturday morning) see the host Broncos in a rather large 7- (-120, Treasure Island) to 9-point (Sportsbook.ag) range as the Home favorites with while the Total (Points) is in a tight 39½- to 40-point range, because the Weather and Site are easier to handicap here at this point in time than who may actually be playing. In the Money Line (Winner) marketplace, the Broncos are priced at -311 with the Steelers priced at +274 on the takeback (Pinnacle). The Denver Broncos Total Team Points is at 23½ (Ladbrokes) while the Pittsburgh Steelers Total Team Points is at 16 (Ladbrokes). The First Half Total is 20 (Under -115, Ladbrokes) while the 1st Half Point Spread sees the Broncos as 4½-point chalks (-105, William Hill).

 

Last 10 Final Scores Pittsburgh Steelers-Denver Broncos Series
2015—@ Steelers 34 Broncos 27 (PIT -7½) Total Points Scored: 61 (Over, 45½)
2012—@ Broncos 31 Steelers 19 (DEN -2½) Total Points Scored: 49 (Over, 45½)
2012—@ Broncos 29 Steelers 23 OT (DEN -7½) Total Points Scored: 52 (Over, 34) (AFC Playoffs)
2009—Steelers 28 @ Broncos 10 (PIT -3) Total Points Scored: 38 (Under, 41½) (Invesco at Mile High)
2007—@ Broncos 31 Steelers 28 (DEN -3½) Total Points Scored: 59 (Over, 38½) (Invesco at Mile High)
2006—Broncos 31 @ Steelers 20 (PIT -3) Total Points Scored: 51 (Under, 36½)
2006—Steelers 34 @ Broncos 17 (DEN -3) Total Points Scored: 51 (Over, 41) (Invesco, AFC Playoffs)
2003—@ Broncos 17 Steelers 14 (DEN -7) Total Points Scored: 31 (Under, 45) (Invesco at Mile High)
1998—Broncos 24 @ Steelers 21 (DEN -2½) Total Points Scored: 45 (Over, 42) (Three Rivers Stadium)
1997—@ Steelers 35 Broncos 24 (PIT -1½) Total Points Scored: 45 (Over, 43) (Three Rivers Stadium)

 

Thoughts On The Total (Points)

Lowest Total in Market: 39½ (Many places)

Current Consensus Totals in Market: 39½ and 40

Highest Total in Market: 40 (Many places)

 

Totals Trends, Thoughts: As you can see, the L10 meetings in this series has seen the Over dominate, with it going 7-3 in the L10 and W3 straight with Total Points scored of 61, 49 and 52. But the Altitude (5,280 feet above Sea Level), Weather (Wind Chill factor applies), Injuries (Bad-Armed QBs) and the significance of the game itself (do-or-die) will all have some effect on the Total (Points) scored here on Sunday, with most of those things seemingly good for the Under. But again, that’s baked into the cake and this is one of those games probably best left alone. What players will be on the field (Roethlisberger, Manning) and which ones won’t (Bell, Williams, Brown, Maurkice Pouncey) will matter, but points have to be scored and neither one of these teams will want to lose and the Steelers Win at Heinz Field will help its Confidence. The Over is a healthy 20-5-1 in the last 26 games in January (80%) but the Under is a strong 11-4-1 ATS in Pittsburgh’s L15 against the AFC, 8-2 in the L10 Steelers Road tilts (80%) and 6-2-1 in the Broncos L9 games in Denver (75%). And both of these teams have been solid Under teams this season, with Pittsburgh Unders 10-6 and Denver Unders 9-6, so the lean toward a Chess-like, Defensive, FG-battle in the Cold is the call with maybe 3 or 4 TDs and 3 or 4 FGs in the game.

 

Why Take the Denver Broncos Should Win This Football Game (In List Form Papa Bear)
The Broncos on the Money Line at -311 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) seems like a good parlay element in this AFC Divisional Playoff game from the Rocky Mountains even though Broncos 39-year-old starting QB Peyton Manning has 10 1-and-Outs (Losses in first game) in the Postseason (believe it or not) and may have Depend undergarments in his Locker. Here’s why the Broncos find a way to outscore the Steelers and advance in the weekend’s last game...

1—The Home team has done well in this series, W3 straight and going 17-12-1 lifetime at five different stadia (Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Three Rivers Stadium, Invesco Field, Three Rivers Stadium, Mile High Stadium). and in the Playoffs the, Homies are 4-3 in 7 AFC meetings. The Home-field and #1 seed has usually been golden to the team which has earned it in the NFL. And Pittsburgh will be playing (and traveling) a second straight week on the Road. In freezing temperatures. Not cool. Well, actually really, really, really “cool” in that it will be freezing Cold in Denver. Site matters.

2—That valuable Extra Week Rest. The Steelers were getting banged up in Cincinnati in their Wild Card Round win over their AFC North rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, but there is always a price to pay and Football isn’t like Baseball or Basketball but more like Hockey in that it takes some days for banged-up bodies to recover and there is always the risk of Injury in each game in these high-contact sports. Pittsburgh will be tired here while Denver and 1st-year Head Coach and former Broncos QB Gary Kubiak will be well-rested and lying in wait.

3—The Broncos Defense (#1 in NFL, 4,530 yards, 283.1 yards, 18.5 ppg) is better than the Steelers Defense (#21 in NFL, 5,809 yards, 363.1 ypg, 19.9 ppg) although the ppg PD between the two is only 1.4 ppg. But the Steelers were extremely Lucky to win on Saturday Cincinnati fumbled at a time in the game you just can’t fumble and the hosts Denver are maybe Lucky they’re playing Pittsburgh and not Cincinnati (again) in this spot, AJ McCarron or not. The Broncos are loaded with talent on the Defensive side of the ball with a killer LB crops in LB Von Miller (11 Sacks), LB Demarcus Ware, LB Brandon Marshall (76 tackles) and Kentucky product, LB Danny Trevathan (75 tackles) as well as studs like CB Chris Harris , CB Aqib Talib (3 Interceptions) in the Defensive Backfield.

4—The Last Meeting in Pittsburgh less than a month ago on December 20, 2015, where the Steelers beat the Broncos, 34-27 (PIT -7½, 45½). In that game, Superstar All Pro WR and Central Michigan product Brown was targeted 18 times (by a healthier QB) and had 16 receptions for 189 yards and 2 TDs and replacing that type of productivity is just impossible. Brown will be targeted 0 times and will have 0 receptions for 0 yards and 0 TDs on Sunday.

5—Because the Steelers are really beat-up. Really beat up, man. Their starting QB and rugged Miami of Ohio product Ben Roethlisberger (Shoulder) is hobbling in with all sorts of problems and is a good hit or two away from us seeing Michael Vick or Landry Jones come in (Attention In-Game Wagerers! We have a Blue Light Special in the Mountains!) while starting RBs Le’Veon Bell (Knee, Out for some time) and DeAngelo Williams (Foot, Out) have made way for Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint. And then the NFL’s leading WR, Antonio Brown (Failed league’s Concussion protocol), is also stuck on the shelf after a nasty hit in the Bengals game while Steelers WR Sammie Coates (Illness) and CB Doran Grant (Groin) are still both listed as Questionable.

Oh my. I think I need an Aspirin. Pittsburgh’s Offense (#23 in NFL, 5,5353 yards, 334.6 ypg, 23.0 ppg) hasn’t exactly been tearing it up this season either, and if we end up getting Vick/Jones, Todman/Toussaint and Bryant/Wheaton as their Skill Players, then the Broncos should be in good shape even if Manning can’t throw well or if backup Brock Osweiler comes in for Denver (Offense #16 in NFL, 5,688 yards, 355.5 ypg, 24.3 ppg). Expect RBs Ronnie Hillman (863 yards, 7 TDs) and CJ Anderson (720 yards, 5 TDs) to be productive here as the hosts try to take pressure of the gimpy Manning by trying to establish the Running game early on.

 

Trends, How This AFC Divisional Round Game in the Rocky Mountains May Evolve on Sunday Afternoon
When you were young and your heart was an open book, you used to say live and live. (You know you, you know you did, you know you did.) And here on Sunday at 5,180 feet above Sea Level in the state where weed is legal yet their populace is somehow the healthiest of all 50 US states, a weird brand of American Football will be played with Old QBs with brilliant brains and plenty of Playoff experience but possibly Arms like Lingerie League QBs. Ooooh-la-la. Welcome to the Fellini-esque AFC Divisional Playoff game from Colorado, where one team can’t seem to score at times yet has the best Defense for not letting the opponents score while the other team will be without their best WR and RB and their QB is beat-up as a boxer in the 9th Round and has a bum arm and sore shoulder.  So the Wise gambler has to ask himself: 1—Is this game even worth betting on? And, 2—Will the John Wayne of Quarterbacks, Roethlisberger, be able to last the whole game against this Broncos Defense? And in such frigid Weather? And the answers could very well be No and No.

Visitors Pittsburgh (20/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365) will be losing 2 Body Clock Hours traveling from the Pennsylvania (Eastern Standard Time) to Colorado (MST), and that should have some bearing, but not as much as the Injuries to Key Skill Players on the Steelers Offense, making this game almost one to just watch and hope it’s close and it snows or something. The Broncos (+550 to win Super Bowl, Betway) and Head Coach Gary Kubiak are the only team in this year’s Postseason with a negative TO Differential (-4, Tied #19 in NFL) but this Pittsburgh Steelers side hasn’t been great in the Takeaway/Giveaway department (+2, Tied #15), though their head’s above water.

As far as Trends, Broncos 1st Quarter Unders have been dynamite so far, so with these to old hobbled vets in during the Winter with some rust, finding that 7½ (-145, Betway) and getting down has been a reflex-action in the 2015/16 NFL season. The Over is a robust 20-5-1 in the last 26 games in January but the Under is 11-4-1 Pittsburgh’s L16 against the AFC, 8-2 in the L10 Steelers Road tilts and 6-2-1 in the Broncos L9 games in the Mile High City. So, the Trends lean Under as do the Injuries and Weather although much of that is baked into the low Total number and one TO TD or Special teams TD and that 39½ or 40 will seem tiny. Especially in a do-or-die situation and so many good WRs including the Steelers Markus Wheaton (+225 Anytime TD Scorer, bet365) and Martavis Bryant (+210, Anytime TD Scorer, Paddy Power) and the Broncos Emmanuel Sanders (+110, Anytime TD Scorer, Paddy Power)—a former Steeler—and Demaryius Thomas (-120, Anytime TD Scorer, 888sport).

And with a potentially low-scoring game here, the 9 points may seem large and the Underdog is 6-2 ATS in the L8 in this series, although it seems Big Ben could be on his Big Back sometime in the 1st Half and Michael Vick or Landry Jones or maybe Bubby Brister or Terry Bradshaw will come in with a Terrible Towel and nothing will happen. And a potentially great NFL Football Playoff weekend could end with much “What If”?

PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Broncos 20 Steelers 17

PROPOSITION BET PICK: Ronnie Hillman Anytime TD Scorer +150 (Paddy Power)