The Spread and Total
Pittsburgh Steelers (-10, 44 O/U) at Houston Texans, courtesy of Bovada.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-3 SU (6-8 ATS); 1st AFC North
Houston Texans: 4-10 SU (7-7 ATS); 3rd AFC South
WR Antonio Brown (thigh), out; G Ramon Foster (concussion), questionable; TE Vance McDonald (shoulder), questionable; CB Joe Haden (fibula), probable.
QB Tom Savage (concussion), out; DE D.J. Reader (knee), out; G Jeff Allen (concussion), questionable; LB Jelani Jenkins (concussion), questionable; LB LaTroy Lewis (shoulder), questionable; DE Jadeveon Clowney (knee), probable; WR DeAndre Hopkins (toe), probable.
Oct. 20, 2014 (Heinz Field, Pittsburgh): Pittsburgh 30, Houston 23
Oct. 2, 2011 (Reliant Stadium, Houston): Houston 17, Pittsburgh 10
Significant ATS Trends
The Steelers are 1-5 ATS in their last six games.
The Texans are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games.
Houston is 2-6 ATS in its last eight Monday games.
The total has gone UNDER in five of the Texans last seven games.
The home team has won the last four games played on Christmas Day.
Think of what a gift this Christmas game could’ve been a few months ago. We could’ve seen Deshaun Watson heating up like a yuletide log, Antonio Brown presenting a matchup challenge to a vaunted Texans D, and Brothers JJ and TJ Watt competing to get a bigger sack total than Santa Claus himself. What should’ve been.
Instead, we get this lump of coal. TJ Yates, Juju Smith-Schuster, and whatever is left of the Steelers and Texans defenses in a game whose only significance relates to Pittsburgh getting a bye. I’d say I won’t watch this game at all, but everyone needs a break from family, and the nightcap is even worse. At least this one offers fantasy implications. (Including Brown, three of the top four non-QB fantasy players of 2017 are on these two teams.)
The Steelers played their usual close game last week, dropping (although it looked like a catch to most) a heartbreaking contest to New England, 27-24. It was their fourth-straight game decided by three points or fewer. However, because the line closed at Pats -2.5, it also marked the fourth-straight week the Steelers haven’t covered.
It’s hard to imagine the team will have a massive offensive spark in this game. Sure, Pittsburgh’s offense looked fine after Brown went down midway through the second quarter against New England: they amassed 245 yards, scored 14 points, and controlled the clock without their star receiver. But having a key piece injured right before the playoffs for what feels like the umpteenth time must be grating. Just getting through to January without any more major losses should be the Steelers’ ultimate goal.
Houston is coming off a second (Tom) savage beating by the Jacksonville Jaguars this year. After allowing 326 passing yards to Blake Bortles and surrendering four sacks and nine QB hits to the Jags defense, one might think the Texans are going to get rolled up under this Steelers team. However, Houston has responded pretty well to blowouts under Bill O’Brien, following up their last six losses of 14 or more points with a straight up win.
The best thing working for Yates and the offense is that Pittsburgh doesn’t have the same corners as Jacksonville, not by a long shot. DeAndre Hopkins had his least efficient outing of the season, catching just four of 13 targets while battling Jalen Ramsey all afternoon. Against Joe Haden, who hasn’t played since Week 10 because of injury, Hopkins will find more space to make plays. And he doesn’t need much room, ranking third among eligible receivers in fewest yards of separation per catch.
Beyond the matchup nightmare that Hopkins provides, there’s not much else to love about this Texans team. They’ve been getting worse as the year drags on, ranking 31st this week in weighted DVOA. Jadeveon Clowney can’t muster a pass rush by himself, and their run game has lacked any pop since D’Onta Foreman went down.
An absence of pop is also what’s been ailing the Steeler defense. Ever since Ryan Shazier went down, they’ve allowed 85 points over three games and allowed opponents to convert on 42-percent of third downs.
While there’s not a strong case to be made for Houston, when you’re a 10-point favorite, you need to really sell me on your viability as a dominant team. The Steelers haven’t been doing that over the last month. Now, after last week’s nut-shot by the Pats, Pittsburgh’s chances at homefield are basically gone. They still need to win out to secure a bye, but I don’t see them responding with a boat-race on the road. Instead, look for another game in which Pittsburgh does just enough to win.
As for the total, I’ve hit on four straight. Why can’t you just trust me? It’s Christmas!
Pick: Texans (+10) and UNDER (44).