Tuesday, September 27, 2011

JZN NFL Predictions vs. Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans (Week 4, 2011-12)

The Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers could be a preview of an AFC Championship match this season. The Steelers are limping into this game. Both teams can prove a lot with a victory.

The early spread on this game is Texans (-4). Here are some of the key aspects of the game and what to watch out for when betting. All lines from Cooper's Pick and Injury Reports from covers.com as of September 27, 2011. Always keep yourself updated with injury lines because they’ll unexpectedly change throughout the week.
#0: Current Record (Straights Only)
Pittsburgh Steelers 2-1
Houston Texans 2-1

#1: Injuries
Who will play offensive line for the Steelers? They’ve already lost Willie Colon to IR. They have three players who are questionable for Week 4. That includes OT Jonathan Scott, OT Marcus Gilbert and C Doug Legursky. CB Bryant McFadden, WR Jerricho Cotchery and DE Brett Keisel are also significant injuries.

The Texans should get Arian Foster back for this contest. They’re mostly healthy other than that injury.

#2: Traveling
The Steelers are playing their third road game in four weeks. They’ve opened the season with road games against the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts.

#3: Texans’ Defense vs. Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger is a gambler. That sometimes will backfire on him. He basically gave the Colts 13 points in Week 3 after a few turnovers when he threw an interception and fumbled twice in the second quarter.

The Texans have installed a new 3-4 defense. They’re still working out the kinks. My biggest concern would be how well the Steelers can handle the blitzes that they’ll see from Wade Phillip’s 3-4 defense. Roethlisberger can’t make foolish mistakes against the Texans’ balanced offense.

#4: Turnover Ratio
The Steelers have the NFL’s worst turnover ratio at (-9). Most of that occurred in Week 1. However, Roethlisberger has been careless with the football these first few weeks. The Texans have an 11-point advantage in this category.

The Steelers aren’t winning this game if this trend continues.

Final Predictions:
Are the Texans for real? This would help validate that. I’m not going to call it a must win because the AFC South is pretty weak this year outside of them and maybe the Tennessee Titans.

Their next four games include the Steelers, Oakland Raiders, at Baltimore Ravens and at Titans. I believe they need to win at least two of those games (one being the Titans) to be in fair shape.

I know Roethlisberger can tear apart a weak 3-4 defense. I saw it when he threw for 503 yards against the Green Bay Packers in 2009. That was Dom Capers’s first year with the group. This could be the same deal. The problem is that the offensive line has so many deficiencies because of injuries. That means that Roethlisberger will likely make more erroneous decisions. Rashard Mendenhall probably won’t be able to take advantage of a Texans’ rush defense that is allowing nearly five yards per carry. 

All that said, I’m going with the Steelers for my upset pick of the week. I just feel like they’ll find a way to win this despite those concerns. This is their real chance to redeem themselves from that Week 1 imbroglio. I expect the defense to be amp’ed up for this challenge. This is probably the most-losable home game that the Texans have this season.

Against the Spread: Pittsburgh Steelers (+4)
Straight:  Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Houston Texans 17

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