It wasn’t the most successful of weeks here at The Sports Geek for Week 2 of the NFL pre-season. We dropped games from Thursday through Monday, and even mistakenly graded a losing selection, as a winner! My sincere apologies on last Saturday’s grading, as we were on the Vikings -3 against Arizona and they only secured a 2-point victory. Though it was not a good week, I can take solace in the fact that four of the defeats came by a combined 6.5 points! A lot of close calls and the luck not breaking our way. Evidence of that was definitely shown in Monday Night’s thrilling final few seconds between the Browns and the Redskins, as a Connor Shaw hail mary pass derailed our Redskins -2.5 selection. Such is life in the pre-season, I guess!
I enter Week 3 looking for redemption, and this historically has been my favourite week of the pre-season to handicap. For coaches, Week 3 is the final week in which they’ll let the starters play long minutes, and you’ll often see the majority of teams utilising their starters into the third quarters over the next few days. It’s really the final opportunity for first-team players to try out new plays and systems, and familiarize themselves with their new teammates. Week 4 has traditionally been a rest week before the regular season for starters, so it’s understandable if you’re a little excited for what the upcoming week has in store.
Tonight, we’ll turn our attention to a pre-season edition of the Battle of Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Steelers will travel to the city of Brotherly Love to take on the Philadelphia Eagles Both fan bases have some of the highest expectations in football, and would like to see inspired showings tonight. It will be intriguing to get a good look at the starters of both squads as both teams have rosters that are relatively set when it comes to evaluating key positions. One main point to note is that both Steelers’ running backs, LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell were caught with marijuana last night, and their status for this contest remains in doubt. It’s believed that Blount was on the team charter, while Bell followed soon after. Rumours have swirled that both could be held out however as punishment. Read on below for further game thoughts and our official selection.
Steelers vs. Eagles Betting Odds:
Pittsburgh Steelers +3.5 (-105)
@ Philadelphia Eagles -3.5 (-115)
Over 50 (-110)
Under 50 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Steelers vs. Eagles Pick:
Given the deep rivalry in this intra-state affair, expect an intense encounter on Thursday evening. Being in separate conferences makes this match-up rare, so these pre-season battles take on extra meaning when the Steelers square off against the Eagles. Though it is just a pre-season game, all accounts and reports suggest that we’ll see the starters for both teams play at least the entire first half.
Thus far in the pre-season, Mike Tomlin’s Steelers haven’t looked very good but they’ve managed a .500 record. A last-second field goal last week against the Bills netted them a 19-16 victory, though they were outgained by nearly 100 yards of total offense. One big positive thus far has been the play of their defense. After a few consecutive seasons of fading results and criticisms about the unit’s age, the Steelers look revamped so far in 2014. Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier has been all over the field in his first two games, and should definitely be in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year. That said, it’s still early and it is still pre-season. Facing Chip Kelly’s high-octane attack could bring Dick Lebeau’s defense back to reality.
For the Eagles, they’ve limped out to an 0-2 record though it really isn’t a big deal. Both of these coaches tonight are well-known for their disdain of a 4-game pre-season, and Chip Kelly’s pre-season priorities are usually not having his first-teamers get injured, and not revealing all that much going into Week 1. We all remember the Eagles performance in their first game of 2013 when constant spells of no-huddle offense confused the Redskins’ defense, catching them entirely off-guard. Chip Kelly likes the veil of secrecy, and we can’t expect anything too adventurous tonight. With that said, this is a big game for pride and bragging rights, and the Eagles have looked hungry in their first two outings. Kelly has stated that his starters will feature for the entire first-half and Philadelphia remains a very good football club.
A lot has been made about the younger and faster Steelers’ defense, but nothing can prepare them for the speed the Eagles will likely bring. Making matters worse is the fact that this was not a good defense against the run (21st) in 2013, and they didn’t even face LeSean McCoy. McCoy is healthy and expected to be readily available for tonight’s contest. Thus far in two pre-season games, Pittsburgh has conceded 4.7 yards per carry to the run. Also, even though Pittsburgh now seems to be running an adapted version of the no-huddle offense, the Eagles are excellent at it. The pace in which they come to the line and get their plays off may prove too much to handle for a new-look Steelers defensive unit that may still be working out some kinks.
With the uncertainty surrounding both the Steelers’ running back situation, and how their new-look defense will handle the pace of the refined Eagles no-huddle, look for an inspired effort from the home team in this one. Regardless of the situation, it’s never good losing to your intra-state rival, and the Eagles will look to send their loyal fans home in a happy mood. Big Ben and the Steelers’ no huddle remains a work in progress and won’t be able to do major damage despite the deficiencies of the Eagles in the secondary. Pittsburgh will be held in check on offense. Mark Sanchez will take the ball from Nick Foles for Philly in the third quarter, and even though the maligned quarterback has taken his lumps in the NFL, he’s looked very good thus far in 2014. Look for that to continue, and look for a healthy Eagles starting line-up to show their rivals why they’re considered one of the top teams in football.
PICK = Eagles -3.5 (-115)