Steelers reflect constant change in NFL

GamingToday.com is an independent sports news and information service. GamingToday.com has partnerships with some of the top legal and licensed sportsbook companies in the US. When you claim a bonus offer or promotion through a link on this site, Gaming Today may receive referral compensation from the sportsbook company. Although the relationships we have with sportsbook companies may influence the order in which we place companies on the site, all reviews, recommendations, and opinions are wholly our own. They are the recommendations from our authors and contributors who are avid sports fans themselves.

For more information, please read How We Rank Sportsbooks, Privacy Policy, or Contact Us with any concerns you may have.

Gaming Today is licensed and regulated to operate in AZ, CO, CT, IN, LA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, TN, and VA.

Just two weeks and a total of 32 games remain to be played until the 2014 NFL regular season is history and the tournament that ends in the crowning of the Super Bowl Champion begins.

This has been a very unusual regular season. We are assured of having a Division winner make the Playoffs with, at best, a .500 record and quite possibly a losing mark. In fact, if New Orleans lost at Chicago on Monday night the winner of the NFC South is assured of finishing below .500.

The Pittsburgh Steelers may be the best example of what an unusual season this has been. Pittsburgh, along with its three AFC North rivals, faced all four teams in the very weak NFC South. Collectively those three rivals – Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland – did not lose to any of those NFC South teams, winning 10 of 11 games with that eleventh game being the 37 to 37 tie played between Carolina and Cincinnati. This week Cleveland completes the schedule with its game at Carolina.

Pittsburgh is the only team in the AFC North to lose to a team in the NFC South. And, in fact, the Steelers lost two such games, to Tampa Bay and New Orleans. What makes that feat in line with the craziness of this season is both of those losses came at home. Pittsburgh’s two wins against the NFC South came on the road in Carolina and Atlanta!

The first four teams to clinch Playoff berths did so this past weekend. Denver, Indianapolis and New England clinched Division titles in the AFC while Arizona clinched at least a Wild Card berth in the NFC. The Cardinals can clinch the NFC West with a win Sunday night at home against Seattle. A loss would tie the Cards with the Seahawks with Seattle holding the Divisional tie breaker as a result of having defeated Arizona a month ago.

Thus two thirds of the Playoffs field, eight teams, will be determined over these final two weeks.

And as if to punctuate just how unusual this season has been, heading into Monday 12 of last week’s 15 games stayed UNDER the total.

There is a twist to the Week 16 schedule. In addition to the season’s final Thursday night football game there will be two played on Saturday with 12 on Sunday and the final Monday nighter of this season. In Week 17 all 16 games will be played on Sunday so as to not give an undue advantage to any of the eight teams that will play in the Wild Card round the following weekend.

Here’s a preview of Week 16 games.

Thursday

Tennessee +3 at Jacksonville (41): Both teams have long been out of the Playoff picture and have begun looking towards next season. Both teams did play well in losses last week. Both are vying for the top draft choice along with Oakland and Tampa Bay as all four are 2-12. Tennessee won the first meeting, 16-14, despite being outgained by the Jaguars, 379-290. Yes, it is risky laying points with a bad team, even against another bad team. But this is a rare prime time appearance for the hosts who, despite a roster with limited talent, continues to be well coached, plays hard and could view this matchup as their “Super Bowl” game. JACKSONVILLE.

Saturday

San Diego +2.5 at SF (41.5): After appearing in three straight NFC Championship games the San Francisco 49ers were eliminated from making this season’s playoffs with last Sunday’s loss at Seattle. San Diego needs to win out and get help to earn a Wild Card. They had their chances last week against Denver but failed to capitalize against the much improved Denver defense. The Niners were banged up at Seattle and the last eight teams to face Seattle have lost their next game with 6 of the 8 losses by double digits. SAN DIEGO.

Philadelphia -8.5 at Washington (50.5): Sunday’s loss to Dallas could prove costly to the Eagles as the Cowboys now lead the NFC East by a game and Philly is currently out of the Playoffs despite being 9-5. Washington remains a wreck both in the locker room and on the field with a pair of banged up quarterbacks. Their first meeting was competitive with Philly winning, 37-34. But that was a long time ago, back in week three. Washington ranks number 12 in total offense but drops to number 26 in points scored. Philly has had issues all season cashing in opportunities in the red zone, settling for too many field goals rather than touchdowns. UNDER.

Sunday

Minnesota +6.5 at Miami (42): Both sides of the football have shown improvement over the second half of the season. Both teams are similar with offenses that are below average and defenses that rank in the top dozen and have played a combined 17 UNDERs and 11 OVERs. Along these lines both teams are much better on offense at running the football and much better defensively against the pass. Those fundamentals suggest a game played between the twenties that more often than not results in limited scoring. UNDER.

Green Bay -10 at TB (48.5): Green Bay suffered a tough loss last week in Buffalo that lessens the chances for the Pack to make the Playoffs although they still control their own fate. Tampa Bay is playing out the string at 2-12 and with a statistical profile that ranks in the bottom quarter of the league in most key categories. Green Bay’s offense will face a much less talented defense here than they face in Buffalo and QB Aaron Rodgers should have more time to pick apart a Tampa defense that has not faced many elite signal callers this season. GREEN BAY.

Detroit at Chicago (No Line): Chicago hosted on New Orleans Monday night and barring key injuries Detroit should be about a 5-point road favorite. Detroit’s success this season has been due mostly to its defense. That unit ranks second in allowing just 300 yards per game and is first against the run, allowing a measly 64 yards per game while also being right around the league average in allowing 236 passing yards per game. The Lions lead the league in allowing just 17.1 points per game while the Bears are last at 29.1 points per game. DETROIT.

Atlanta at New Orleans (NL): Atlanta won the earlier meeting 37-34 as home underdogs so a win here gives them the tie breaker edge over the Saints heading into Week 17 when the Falcons host Carolina. Sometimes the obvious play is the play that is called for. Both offenses rank in the top 7 and the two defenses rank last and next to last. Often key late season games between contenders turn into defensive struggles but given the porous defenses this should turn into a battle of which offense can outscore the other. And weather will not be a factor inside the dome. OVER.

New England -10 at NY Jets (47.5): Prior to last week’s win at Tennessee the Jets’ two prior games were an OT loss at Minnesota and a 3 point loss to Miami. The Jets nearly won at New England in their first meeting, losing on a blocked FG attempt at the gun. This is a long standing rivalry and Ryan would like nothing more than to go out with an upset of his more accomplished rival, New England coach Bill Belichick. That probably won’t happen but the double digit spread gives plenty of room for another competitive contest. NY JETS.

KC +3 at Pittsburgh (46.5): The Chiefs played their best football early in the season. Last week’s win over Oakland that snapped a 3 game losing streak was just a 10-3 lead at the half. Pittsburgh has been inconsistent all season but they have won 5 of their last 7 and have scored at least 27 points in 7 of their last 8 games. The Chiefs have the better defense but their offense is lacking and the 31 points tallied last week was the first time in 7 games and just the second time in 9 games they’ve scored more than 24 points. PITTSBURGH

Cleveland at Carolina (NL): The status of Carolina QB, Cam Newton, remains uncertain as he attempts to return less than two weeks after an automobile accident in which he suffered a back injury that kept him out of last week’s win over Tampa Bay. Cleveland QB Johnny Manziel was awful in his starting debut but he also got little help from his teammates and a defense that allowed the Bengals to control the football for 39 minutes. Neither team excels in any one phase of the game but with Newton or backup Derek Anderson. Carolina is playing its final home game. CAROLINA.

Baltimore -4 at Houston (41.5): The Texans are 7-7 and all but out of the picture, especially with starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick breaking his leg last week l with deep backups Thad Lewis or Case Keenum getting the start. The Texans do have a solid defense but will be tested by a Ravens offense that has played well. The Ravens lone loss in their last five games was that last minute 34-33 loss to San Diego three weeks ago. Money is likely to pour in on the Ravens but note that Houston held QB Andrew Luck and the Colts offense in check on the road last week in their 17-10 loss. UNDER .

NY Giants +5 at St. Louis (43.5): The Giants have yet to defeat a winning team this season but are 5-1 both SU and ATS against the teams that currently are at .500 or worse. The Total appears the better play and it is based on the Rams being a team with a limited offense but a defense that has improved greatly over the past 2 months, holding 3 straight and 5 of their last 7 foes to 12 points or less. UNDER.

Buffalo – 5.5 at Oakland (39): Oakland has played well over the second half of the season and both of their wins have come in their last 4 games. Rookie QB Derek Carr has made solid progress but will be facing a defense that frustrated Green Bay’s potent offense last week. Buffalo’s offense is below average and Oakland’s ranks dead last. Both teams’ defenses are top ten against the pass which could be an indicator of a game dominated by running and a short passing game which lends itself to limited scoring. UNDER

Indy +3 at Dallas (55.5): Both teams have potent offenses and Dallas has scored over 30 points in 4 of its last 5 games. But they’ve also allowed at least 27 points in 5 of their last 6. Last week they built a 21-0 lead only to surrender 24 straight points before rallying for their 38-27 win. That defense, which played well early in the season, has become a concern. The game is of much greater importance to the Cowboys. But can they be trusted? With RB DeMarco Murray nursing an injured hand, the Cowboys may be forced to rely more on the pass. OVER.

Seattle -7.5 at Arizona (37.5): Arizona will have to rely on third string QB Ryan Lindley who has not performed well in his limited NFL action and will face constant pressure by a Seattle defense that is now healthy and playing at last season’s Super Bowl level. Seattle has all the fundamental edges but that’s been the case with most teams who face Arizona. Still, the Cards find a way to win and are 7-0 SU at home and are 10-4 ATS for the season. Look for the Cardinals to find a way to keep this game close with a very low risk offense. ARIZONA.

Monday

Denver -3.5 at Cincinnati (48): Denver’s offense has been much more run oriented in recent weeks as QB Peyton Manning may be finally starting to show his age, often missing open receivers and looking not as sharp as we have become accustomed to seeing. In winning those 4 road games Cincy did not allow more than 13 points in any. If they can bring that effort to this vital home game they can defeat the Broncos and maintain their lead in the AFC North, possibly clinching the Division if both Pittsburgh and Baltimore lost on Sunday. CINCINNATI.

Last week: 7-8 (w/o MNF)

Season: 115-107-1

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

Get connected with us on Social Media

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]