The Steelers come fresh off a bye to face a confident Philadelphia Eagles team that beat their division rival, New York Giants, 19-17 on Sunday Night Football. Giants’ kicker Lawrence Tynes had the opportunity to capture a 20-19 victory, but the football fell short of the crossbars on a 54-yard field goal attempt. Tynes missed a field goal attempt seconds before, however, the play was blown dead as a result of an Andy Reid timeout. The game was relatively sloppy throughout, most notably in the first half. The Eagles ended up pulling it out thanks to a relatively mistake free game. The previous three weeks were marred with turnovers by the Eagles’ offense. It wasn’t a pretty win, but the Eagles had a well-rounded effort from the offense and defense.
Conversely, in a sense, the Steelers were victorious in week 4 as well. Not in the literal sense, but the injury report should look a lot more promising for the Steelers heading into this one. Between Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, and Rashard Mendenhall, only one player has played a week of football so far, that being Polamalu. One could argue that these three are the crutch of this team, the core that keeps things glued together. When one, or in this case, all three are absent, it severely disrupts the Steelers chances at being serious competitors in 2012. The Steelers get good news in week 5, though, with all three expected to be back in the lineup. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, head coach Mike Tomlin predicts all three will play based on their productivity in practice. Certainly keep an eye on this news if you plan on wagering this game. The Steelers with an adequate running game and their best two defenders back gives them an immense boost.
The Steelers as a whole this season have generally been hot and cold. They got trounced on the road in Denver and Oakland, but made Mark Sanchez look silly in week 2, which maybe isn’t saying much. The Raiders game may be a little deceiving, however. For whatever reason, no matter how talented the Steelers are in a given year, they continually get abused in Oakland. This is just a team that simply doesn’t like long distance trips. At home, it could be argued that they are a different animal. They have only played the Jets at home, but their performance, especially defensively, was reminiscence of how they have played at home this past decade. In 2011 the Steelers finished 7-1 at home; it could have very easily been 8-0 if it wasn’t for a Ravens touchdown with thirty seconds remaining. The year prior in 2010, they were equally as impressive finishing 6-2 at home. Michael Vick will need to play his best football of the year against a Steelers’ defense that ranks 3rd against the pass, only allowing 190 yards per game.
Vick, with the exception of last week has been a turnover machine. On the season he has thrown six interceptions and fumbled the ball away twice. Even though Vick didn’t turn the ball over last week, he still appears to be a shell of his former self. His accuracy is not what it once, and while he still has the talent to make things happen with his legs, they are beginning to slow down. Instead of dancing around and finding time, Vick has pressured passes which have ultimately led to interceptions. He finished with 241 yards and a touchdown on 19 of 30 passing, also chipping in with 49 yards on the ground. The defense has shined thus far in 2012, most definitely an upgrade from a season ago. They rank 6th in terms of total defense allowing 298 yards per game. And also have allowed only 20.8 points per game over their first four games.
Eagles vs. Steelers Spread and Betting Odds:
Philadelphia Eagles +3 (-105)
@Pittsburgh Steelers -3 (-115)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Eagles vs. Steelers Pick:
Even after the Eagles beat the Giants on SNF, I am still reading articles regarding backup rookie Nick Foles breathing down Vick’s neck for the starting job. And while Vick didn’t look awful in week 4, there was still a sense that he has lost a step. The offense in no means looked electrifying like many have come to expect given the talent. A win against the Steelers in Pittsburgh could change many people’s perceptions of this team, though. Pittsburgh is arguably one of the most difficult places to play in as an opposing team. They have only lost three times in two seasons at Heinz Field. Vick has already showcased his troubles in a hostile environment in Cleveland, throwing four interceptions. He also fumbled the ball twice, but was lucky enough to recover them.
I expect the Steelers to continue to roll at home. With a healthy unit, the Steelers possess the best or at least second best defense, in my opinion. The Steelers have a 9-3 ATS run going and I expect that to get to 10 after four quarters against the Eagles. They also are 9-0 ATS following a loss. At home with a healthy defense and improved running game, the Steelers get it done Sunday afternoon.
PICK = Steelers -3