Wild Card: Pittsburgh Steelers Full NFL Betting Analysis

Posted by Aaron . on January 5, 2016 in

If you pick up the NFL betting paper, you’ll see the AFC playoff seeding looking like this:

New England
Kansas City

Denver and New England have byes, of course, and Kansas City and Pittsburgh have road games in Houston and Cincinnati, respectively. However, it is the sixth seed that many see as the best team in the AFC going in.

Wild Card: Pittsburgh Steelers Full NFL Betting Analysis

Why are the Steelers so strong? Well, they probably have the second-best quarterback in the AFC playoffs (and Tom Brady has a much less reliable offensive line). The have the best wide receiver, and if DeAngelo Williams is healthy, they have the best running back in the AFC.

Also, the Steelers knocked off the Bengals on the road, 33-20, in Week 14. Admittedly, the Bengals had A.J. McCarron at quarterback, and this time they’ll likely have Andy Dalton back under center. However, the Steelers then went on to beat Denver, 34-27, in Week 15, as the offensive problems that continue to plague the Broncos turned into issues on the defensive side as well. Yes, the Steelers followed that up with a ridiculous Week 16 loss that made them reliant on the Jets’ loss in Week 17 even to make it into the playoffs, but all signs point to the Steelers being the hottest team in the AFC playoffs with the exception of the Kansas City Chiefs, whom the Steelers would not face until the AFC Championship game.

The Steelers knocked off the Bengals on the road, 33-20, in Week 14.

A big question for the Steelers involves the availability of tailback DeAngelo Williams. He left the Week 17 game against Cleveland with an ankle injury, after a defensive lineman for the Browns ended up falling on his foot. Williams did come back out of the locker room but never went back into the game. However, according to ESPN’s Britt McHenry, an MRI that Williams had performed on Monday showed that his ankle did not suffer any fracture or other type of structural damage. So it could just be a strain — which would not be serious. The Steelers would have to turn to Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint as their primary running options if Williams is not able to go — options that they would find much less productive.

Are the Steelers really all that reliable? Yes, they did beat Cincinnati and Denver back-to-back. However, against the Bengals, that was the game when Dalton went down with that thumb fracture, and it’s very rare that a starting quarterback will go down to injury in a game and the backup will be able to hold things together for a win. In the case of Denver, the Steelers were also facing a backup quarterback in Brock Osweiler, and while the Steeler offense was firing on all cylinders in that game, it hasn’t done so since, as the team fell in Baltimore and then had a difficult time finishing off the Cleveland Browns in Week 17. So while this is a strong team on paper, you can expect the Bengals to put up a bigger fight than they did in Week 14, whether it’s a more confident A.J. McCarron leading the offense or Dalton back from his injury.