Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were 4-5 after nine games. So this season’s 3-2 start really isn’t too bad.
Still, the Steelers don’t look right. This season started with Super Bowl hopes, and that certainly didn’t include losing at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now the Steelers face an even tougher obstacle, as they travel to play the 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs.
It’s not like a loss and a 3-3 start would preclude the Steelers from a long playoff run. Last season they rebounded from 4-5 start to win nine in a row, including a couple of playoff games. One of those playoff wins was at Kansas City.
However, this seems like a big week for Pittsburgh. Through four games they rarely looked like a championship contender, mostly because the star-filled offense hadn’t played well. Last week, the wheels fell off. Ben Roethlisberger called out Antonio Brown, threw five interceptions and then wondered if he’d lost it. He spent this week walking that back and pumping himself back up. It was all a little strange.
The movement in the Chiefs-Steelers line has reflected the negative news around Pittsburgh. On Yahoo’s Pro Football Pick’em, the line started at Chiefs minus-3. It moved to minus-4. Then it moved to minus-4.5. It also reflects recency bias. We’ve seen the Chiefs play very well to start this season. The Steelers seem to be in crisis mode. But we constantly see NFL teams simply change their trajectory from week to week. I think we’ll see the best of the Steelers this week. It’s hard to believe a team with that much talent is just going to be mediocre all season.
I’m taking the Steelers getting 4.5 points and I think they could pull the upset. They’re a SuperContest pick for me, as well. Maybe by Sunday night we’ll be telling a different story about the 2017 Steelers.
Here are the rest of the Week 6 NFL picks:
Lions (+5) over Saints: This is a lot of respect for the Saints. Maybe New Orleans has just changed its spots and is a good defensive team now. I’m not convinced yet. If nothing else the Matthew Stafford backdoor cover should be in play, because that’s a Lions specialty. (This spread is plus-5.5 on the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Patriots (-9) over Jets: Here’s a double-digit underdog I can’t get behind this week. Six weeks ago, we thought one of these teams could go 19-0 and the other could go 0-16. Sure, the perceptions of both have changed. But I don’t see the Jets being deep in this game with a chance at an upset. (This spread is minus-11 on the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Browns (+9.5) over Texans: It’s hard to pick the Browns. They’re 1-20 under Hue Jackson. But I do think Kevin Hogan helps the offense. DeShone Kizer just wasn’t playing well enough to keep Cleveland in games. Life is also easier for Hogan not having to face J.J. Watt or Whitney Mercilus. (This spread is plus-11 on the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Chargers (+3.5) over Raiders: I assume Derek Carr will play. I also know Carr is dealing with fractures in his back, and I assume that’ll make it harder to play quarterback. Also, the Chargers are a competitive team that’s saddled with a bad record. This should be a close game, probably ending with a heartbreaking Chargers loss. (There is no spread in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em because of Carr’s injury, but I’ll still pick the Chargers.)
And here are the rest of this week’s picks:
Panthers (-3.5) over Eagles (picked Thursday): Impressive win by the Eagles. With a lot of home games coming up for Philly and Dallas dealing with Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension being back on, barring another injunction, the Eagles are clearly the class of the NFC East.
Dolphins (+12.5) over Falcons: It’s really hard to get behind the Dolphins at this point, but this line is too big for me to take the favorite. There are more double-digit spreads this week than you usually find in the NFL, and if you blindly took all of those double-digit underdogs my guess is you’d end up doing OK.
Packers (-3) over Vikings: I’d like to take a decent home underdog here, but I’m really starting to buy into the Packers as perhaps the best team in the NFL. The Chiefs have the best résumé, but a healthy Packers team would have the highest upside. Also, the Packers own the NFC North. According to OddsShark, they’re 7-1 straight up in their last eight road games against the division.
49ers (+11) over Redskins: This line just feels high. The 49ers have lost their last four games by 11 points combined. They’re 0-5 but playing very hard. What worries me a bit is how bad of a spot this is for the 49ers in terms of travel and rest. This is the 49ers’ third straight road game, the second straight in the Eastern time zone, and Washington is coming off a bye. You won’t find a much bigger disparity in NFL scheduling. That’s what’s keeping me from making San Francisco a SuperContest pick.
Bears (+7) over Ravens: The Bears have been awful on the road so it’s a bit scary to pick them here. But the Ravens offense isn’t good enough for me to lay a touchdown with them.
Buccaneers (-1) over Cardinals: Do I feel wonderful about taking Tampa Bay as a road favorite, given what we’ve seen so far? Not really. Do I want to take the Cardinals right now against anyone? Nope.
Jaguars (-2.5) over Rams: I can already tell I’m going to hate picking every Jaguars game this season. If they fall behind and Blake Bortles becomes a factor, they’re in trouble. But if they can hide him, like they did last week when he attempted one pass in the second half, they’ll be fine. I do think the Rams will have a bit of a hangover from a physically tough loss to the Seahawks last week.
Giants (+13) over Broncos: No chance I’d be picking this game if I didn’t pick every game. The Giants barely can field an offensive lineup. I still don’t love taking the Broncos to win by two touchdowns. This matchup looked so fun six weeks ago. Now it’s just ruining our Sunday night.
Titans (off) over Colts: There’s no line because of the Marcus Mariota injury. I’ll take the presumptive favorite. Another matchup that looked pretty good six weeks ago, and now is quite a bummer.
Last week: 10-3-1
Season to date: 49-26-3
SuperContest: 3-1-1 last week, 17-7-1 season to date
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