The New York Jets travel to Heinz Field to play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon for a 4:25ET showdown. This one promises to be a hard hitting, physical affair without either defense budging, or will the offenses shine? The last three times the Jets and Steelers have faced each other the biggest margin of victory has been five, occurring the last two seasons, 22-17 Jets in 2010 and 24-19 Steelers last season. In this regard, it is easy to see why the line is where it’s at. On many occasions we are left with head scratchers, but I think this line is as accurate as they come. It certainly doesn’t mean we can’t exploit the books and find an advantage, though.
The Jets’ offense seemed to have a lot of question marks during the preseason schedule. The offense couldn’t even find the end zone; it was the perfect opportunity for critics to get their smirk remarks in about the circus in Jets land. All of those bad vibes seemingly went out the window after the real season began. The offense didn’t just find the end zone; in fact, the offense ended up visiting pay dirt four times. The offense wasn’t the only unit that put up points, the Jets had a 68-yard punt return go for 6, and an Antonio Cromartie interception was returned 40-yards. It was the perfect game for Rex Ryan to stick it to the pundits that were sullying the Jets in the offseason. There were plenty of experts that had the Bills winning this game as a 3-point dog, they were supposed to continue on from their success last year and take advantage of a dysfunctional Jets squad. Boy do things change in just a week, though. I mentioned it several times in my writeup for the Ravens/Eagles game: basing your picks on the week before is a great way to burn through your bankroll. There are exceptions, but for the most part a general rule is to have a short memory in sports betting. With that said, I think the Bills are going to play below expectations after last season, and the Jets will be their average Jekyll and Hyde selves again.
If the Jets want to take the next step at unseating the New England Patriots in the AFC East, their offense is going to need to find some consistency. This of course starts with the quarterback, Mark Sanchez. After several years as the Jets signal caller, the verdict is still out on him. One week he looks like a perennial pro-bowler and just a few days later it looks like he should be holding a clipboard on the sidelines. Just for this fact alone, it is a dangerous proposition to make a bet on the Jets based on the previous week. He did look good against the Bills, passing for 266 yards and 3 TDs, but let’s not kid ourselves, the Bills defense isn’t scaring anyone. While they did make major improvements by acquiring defensive end Mario Williams, their defense is still in shambles. A season ago the defense ranked third last in points allowed, 27.1 points per game. It doesn’t look like things are going to change much in 2012. The Steelers on the other hand were ranked first in points allowed with just 14.2 a game. So, the Jets are going from the worst to the best in a week, statistically speaking. The Steelers will presumably be without linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu, however. They are used to playing without Polamalu by now, but the defense takes a serious dip in talent without two of their best players suiting up. Sanchez will have a great chance to take advantage of a Steelers defense that is in a moderate bit of disarray. The defense certainly didn’t look like The Steel Curtain last week against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, giving up 31 points. It isn’t very often you see a Steelers defense surrender that many points, no matter the quarterback they are playing against.
The Steelers offense may actually be the bright spot of this team, another thing you don’t see very often. Starting running back Rashard Mendenhall is doubtful, but what I like from this team is their passing game. They found a budding start in Antonio Brown at the receiving position, and Mike Wallace is one of the best in stretching defenses. These two alone should be a terror for defenses to contain as the season progresses. Roethlisberger and the offense in week 1 looked average, but Wallace hasn’t seen much game time after holding out in the offseason. I expect the passing game to be more in sync against a Jets defense without Darelle Revis who has been ruled out for Sunday. Roethlisberger still ended up passing for 245 yards and 2 TDs, so it wasn’t completely anemic.
Jets vs. Steelers Spread and Betting Odds:
New York Jets +6 (-115)
@ Pittsburgh Steelers -6 (-105)
Over 42 (-110)
Under 42 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Jets vs. Steelers Pick:
When I opened this article with the comment that the oddsmakers nailed this line, I truly believe the final score will hover around the number. I could envision a 10 point Steeler victory, or a 3 point ball game either way. Consequently, I have taken a hard look at the total. This series is notoriously a low scoring, smash mouth kind of football. Play conservatively and let the defenses dictate the winner has essentially been the motto of both squads. If you a regular reader of my articles you have come to find I love finding statistical advantages when locking on my wagers, but I’m going to move out of my comfort zone due to some key injuries.
I have made a living off of playing the under in these games, but that was when the defenses were healthy. If you have read any preview for this game, the first thing that sticks out is the amount of injuries. In my opinion, the best three players on these rosters won’t be playing in this one, all being on the defensive side of the ball. Troy Polamalu and James Harrison of the Steelers are both questionable, with Darelle Revis already ruled out for the Jets. I think is going to be one of those games you think is going to end 13-10 but ends up being a high scoring affair. Neither team runs the ball particularly well, so I think trying to run the ball will be abandon early. This will force both teams to dish the ball around. Without Revis Island lingering in the corner of Roethlisberger’s eyes I think he will be able to do some damage with receivers Wallace and Brown. Considering the defensive battles these two teams get into the total seems spot on, but if there was ever a time to take a Jets/Steelers over this would be the week with the defensive injuries.
PICK = OVER 42