The Steelers dropped their second game in a row in Week 8, falling at home to the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals 16-10. They'll look to get back on track in Week 9, but will have to do so without the services of All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell, who suffered a torn MCL against the Bengals.
The Raiders, meanwhile, are riding a two-game winning streak behind the arm of second-year quarterback Derek Carr, and stud rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper. Oakland defeated the San Diego Chargers 37-29 in Week 7, and topped the New York Jets 34-20 in Week 8.
This matchup has major playoff implications, as both teams are fighting for a potential Wild Card spot in the American Football Conference. The Raiders are currently the No. 5 seed in the AFC, while the Steelers are on the outside looking in at No. 7.
Week 8 Recap
The Steelers were 1.5-point favorites at home against the Bengals in Week 8. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw three costly second-half interceptions in his first game back from a knee injury, and the Steelers fell 16-10. Running back Le'Veon Bell suffered a season-ending MCL tear in the second quarter of the loss.
Losing Bets: Over 48.5 points -110, Steelers will score over 24 points -115, Antonio Brown over 100 receiving yards even odds, Le'Veon Bell will score first touchdown of the game +500
Winning Bets: Bengals to win even odds, Bengals to cover
Ben Roethlisberger looked rusty in his first game since Week 3, throwing three second-half interceptions in a 16-10 loss to the Bengals. Roethlisberger and the offense will look to get back on track against the Raiders.
The Raiders are riding a two-game winning streak, with the offense averaging 35.5 points in those games.
Something will have to give when the Raiders No. 8 scoring offense (25.4 PPG) meets the Steelers No. 6 scoring defense (18.4 PPG). This is a very important game for both teams, as the winner will have an inside track to clinching an AFC Wild Card spot.
My season record straight up: 4-3
Steelers -205 ($10.00 wins $4.88)
Raiders +175 ($10.00 wins $17.50)
I like the Steelers in this game, for a few reasons. First, they haven't lost three games in a row since the beginning of the 2013 season. Second, they're playing at the friendly confines of Heinz Field, where they're 7-3 in their last ten games. Third, Roethlisberger should be much sharper in his second game back from injury, and will be determined to make up for last week's dreadful performance.
The Raiders may be one of the hottest teams in the league right now, but they're very young, and the media's been blowing smoke up their butts the entire week. It's never easy for a West coast team traveling to the East coast for a 1 PM game, especially for an inexperienced team like this one.
The play: Steelers -205
My season record against the spread: 4-1-2
Steelers -5 (-110) ($10.00 wins $9.09)
Bengals +5 (-110) ($10.00 wins $9.09)
The Steelers opened as 4.5-point favorites, but the line has since moved to -5. If you're betting on Pittsburgh in this one, you'd be wise to do it sooner rather than later, as public action is likely to push the line even higher before kickoff.
The Steelers are on a two-game skid, but Vegas still believes in them. Ben Roethlisberger is back in the fold, and should be able to knock off the rust to bolster an offense that ranks No. 23 in scoring (21.0 PPG). Pittsburgh's defense has been much improved in 2015. The unit ranks No. 6 in points allowed (18.4 PPG), and No. 6 in sacks (22.0).
The Raiders rank No. 19 in scoring defense (24.7 PPG), and No. 31 against the pass (302.1 YPG). Oakland is, however, stout up front, ranking No. 2 against the run (82.9 YPG).
I expect Roethlisberger to have a bounce-back performance in this one, and take advantage of the Raiders No. 31 pass defense. This, in turn, should open up lanes for running back DeAngelo Williams.
Defensively, the Steelers pass rush should be able to fluster Derek Carr enough to force a couple of turnovers, and neutralize Oakland's mediocre rushing attack.
The Play: Steelers -5
We opened this spread at Steelers -7 and immediately took action on Oakland, moving the number down to -5.5 within minutes. As the week has progressed, we've continued to see Raiders money and the spread moved to as low as -4. I don't anticipate it to drop any further than that.
Much of the movement is attributed to the season-ending injury to Le'Veon Bell. From an odds maker's perspective, Bell is worth 1.5-3 points to a line.
It depends on the opponent and replacement when putting a number on a player's value, but since Bell is such an integral piece to not only the Pittsburgh running game, but also the passing game, he is worth more than most other backs in the league. DeAngelo Williams is a respectable replacement, but he certainly can't bring to the table what Bell does.
Due to Bell's injury, we adjusted our Super Bowl 50 odds for Pittsburgh slightly. Prior to Week 8, the Steelers had +3500 odds to win the Super Bowl at BookMaker.eu. Currently, we've got them listed with +4200 odds. The injury, as well as the loss to Cincinnati, moved the odds.
48.0 (-110) ($10.00 wins $9.09)
All the talk surrounding the Steelers entering this season was how potent the offense would be. Ben Roethlisberger even told the media he expected the unit to average at least 30 points per game.
Then the injury bug hit.
The Steelers lost Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey to a broken leg in the preseason, Roethlisberger sustained a bone bruise and sprained MCL in Week 3, left tackle Kelvin Beachum suffered a torn ACL in Week 6, and Le'Veon Bell tore his MCL in Week 8. Factor all of this in with wide receiver Martavis Bryant's four-game suspension, and Bell's two-game suspension to start the season, and we have a Pittsburgh offense averaging just 21.0 points per game through eight weeks.
With the offense in disarray, the total has gone under in five of Pittsburgh's last five games.
The Play: under 48.0
Longest touchdown over 45.5 yards -115 ($10.00 wins $8.70)
Martavis Bryant to score two or more touchdowns +550 ($10.00 wins $55.00)
The Long Shot
Steelers win by 14-17 points +850 ($10.00 wins $85.00)
Steelers 27, Raiders 17