Pittsburgh Steelers @ Houston Texans is this week’s biggest game, in that it features two evenly matched teams that cannot afford a loss. Though the Texans can anticipate or hope their lone competitive division rival, the Tennessee Titans, will fade, the Steelers do not have that luxury. The Ravens will not wilt, and both Browns and Bengals have a shot at finishing at least .500. The latter means any misstep could knock the Steelers out of the division and/or wildcard race.
Pittsburgh has a relatively easy schedule where they can win 9 out of their remaining 13 games without having to go beyond their norm. But, the Ravens, who demolished the Steelers in Week 1 also benefit from such scheduling. This means Pittsburgh must defeat the Texans to keep pace or gain an advantage.
To beat the Texans, the Steelers are going to have to score points, lots of them – 24 or more; something the Steelers have not done this season. Pittsburgh’s average of 18PPG (points per game) is a bit misleading since they have played in two blowouts in which the losing team scored in single digits – one loss (7pts); one win (0 points).
In that win against the St. Louis Rams, they “took their foot off the gas” in the 3rd quarter. Their other game, a win with a score of 23-20, showed them in a battle, but it was against the Colts who are without star QB Peyton Manning. Basically it comes down to not being able to pinpoint, just which performance is the real Pittsburgh Steelers.
This game against the Houston Texans will give us that answer because the Texans have put up 23+ points in all games. They have done this in three disparate contests – 4th quarter fade against powerhouse New Orleans; up and down game versus Miami; and a shellacking of the hapless Colts.
This game will come down to Texans offense battling Steelers defense, specifically the Passing game: 12th ranked Texans versus 1st ranked passing defense. Listed as “probable" to play, the Texans RB Ben Tate’s production is a given, especially since the Steelers run defense roughly yields what he produces (4.6 yards per rush; nearly 100 yards per game).
Even with Tate (listed as probale) in the lineup, can Matt Schaub maintain his average: 274 ypg on 65% passing, and 2:1 TD/INT ratio?
NFL PICKS Week 4
Steelers (+3.5) Under (45) – Texans might win but covering while putting up lots of points? Only elite teams do that against the Steelers.
10/2 1:00 ET At Houston -3.5 Pittsburgh 45
http://www.footballlocks.com/nfl_lines.shtml @10/01/11 @ 11:05pm