Eagles Visit Steelers In Battle Of Pennsylvania
By: Michael Robinson
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t leaving a lot of margin for error in their wins this season. They visit a suddenly healthier Pittsburgh Steelers team on Sunday in the Battle of Pennsylvania.
The Don Best Pro Odds have Philadelphia as 3-3½-point underdogs with a total of 44. FOX has the broadcast rights to this interconference affair and will get underway from Heinz Field at 1:00 p.m. (ET).
The Eagles (3-1 straight up, 0-3-1 against the spread) are playing as an underdog for the first time this season. Their three wins have come by a grand total of four points, with the latest 19-17 at home on Sunday night over the division rival Giants. That ‘pushed’ the 2-point spread.
Quarterback Michael Vick led the game-winning field goal drive in the fourth quarter and was 19-of-30 (63.3 percent) for 241 yards. More importantly, he was turnover free after having six picks and three lost fumbles in the first three games. Vick suffered a knee contusion, but is listed as probable.
LeSean McCoy (384 yards) is second in the NFL in rushing. He’s also probable with a knee tweak after rushing for 123 yards last week. Only two of those came in the first half (on six carries) and Philly needs to get him going early against a Pittsburgh run defense that is allowing a mediocre 101 YPG (tied-for-14th).
Coach Andy Reid is worried about an emotional letdown after the Giants and his team has also struggled on the road (0-2 ATS). The Eagles needed a touchdown with 1:18 left to beat Cleveland, 17-16 as 9-point favorites in Week 1. The game at Arizona two weeks ago was a terrible performance (27-6 loss as 3-point favorites).
Both of those road games easily went ‘under’ the total with the offense struggling bad.
The Steelers (1-2 SU and ATS) were one of two teams to have a bye in Week 4 and are still smarting from their stunning 34-31 Week 3 loss at Oakland as 3½-point favorites. They certainly can’t afford to fall to 1-3.
Coach Mike Tomlin’s guys at least had time to rest and get healthy. Running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and linebacker James Harrison (knee) are probable to play their first games this season. Safety Troy Polamalu (calf) should suit up after missing the last two contests.
The addition of Harrison and Polamalu will be a huge benefit long-term, but defenses do sometimes struggle in the first game with injured players back, even when they are All-Pros.
The expected return of Mendenhall could provide more immediate dividends with the rushing game averaging 65 YPG (ranked 31st) and a league-worst 2.6 yards per carry. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman will still get carries, but won’t be burdened with leading the attack.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has the NFL’s second-best quarterback rating despite learning new coordinator Todd Haley’s system. He’s been sacked nine times in three games and a better running attack will slow the pass rush down and provide better balance.
The Steelers have one of the best home field advantages in football. The Jets were the first victim at Heinz Field this year, a 27-10 Steelers victory as 4½-point favorites. The ‘under’ is 4-0 in their last four home games dating back to last year, allowing a miniscule 5.0 PPG.
These teams only meet every four years in the regular season. The home team won and covered the last two with the ‘under’ going 2-0.