Pittsburgh Steelers at St. Louis Rams

It’s tough to read too much into early season form, with many teams having very up and down seasons so far, but given the vastly contrasting performances from these two teams in week 2 I can’t understand why Pittsburgh, whom I figure to be one of the best teams in the league, can be gotten at evens in this matchup. I’ll be backing the Steelers in this one.

Through two games, Pittsburgh has been one of the best offenses in the league – averaging 458.5 yards a game – even without two of their best players in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Martavis Bryant. Bell, who is the best all-purpose RB in my view, returns in this game and it will make the Steelers even harder to defend.

If Bell starts off well against a Rams defence that has given up an average of 153 yards on the ground in their first two games, then they will have to commit more defenders to stopping him and that will open up the secondary for QB Ben Roethlisberger to throw deep to his plethora of WRs that include Antonio Brown – a player at the top of his game right now.

This combination could lead to Pittsburgh, as they did against the 49ers last week, getting an early lead against St. Louis (especially if they continue to go for 2 points after the extra point change) and if this happens then Rams QB Nick Foles will have to throw a lot more often than they’d like. Ideally they would be running the ball a lot against the Steelers’ slight LBs, but I just can’t see them being able to and having to force the ball downfield will play to Pittsburgh’s defensive strengths.

It shouldn’t be a blowout like it was against San Francisco last week, but I feel the Rams just won’t be able to keep up with the Steelers in this one.

Handicap Betting Recommendation: Pittsburgh Steelers To Win at 2.02

 

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens

A big divisional game here, with the Ravens looking to avoid their first 0-3 start in their history as they face the Bengals. A loss here, combined with a tough division and schedule, could be fatal for them even this early on in the season. Unfortunately for them, the Bengals have won 3 consecutive games against the Ravens (and 4 of the last 5) and I think it’s Cincinnati who will be winning this one too.

The Bengals just have far too much both sides of the ball for a Ravens team that is without its best defensive player, Terrell Suggs, for the season. Defensively, Baltimore gave up 37 points to a Raiders team last week that Cincinnati blanked until late on in the 4th quarter the week before. They’ll now be going up against a Bengals team that played what I think was a “perfect” offensive game against the Chargers last week and the ideal blueprint for victory this week.

QB Andy Dalton threw for 3 TDs and played a mistake-free game, while they leant on a running game with 2 talented RBs in Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard. Hill got benched for a fumble, but Bernard went off for 123 yards on just 20 carries. If they can use the same formula here, the Bengals should be in a good position to take the victory as their defence is looking very good this year and typically plays well against the Ravens – they’ve held Baltimore to under 20 points and forced 11 turnovers in 4 of the last 5 games.

It’s not all on him of course, but the Bengals are not a good matchup for Ravens QB Joe Flacco. He has been held to an average of under 200 yards in 4 of those last 5 games I mentioned and has thrown twice as many INTs against Cincinnati than any other team.

The Ravens will be amped up for this game as they look to avoid going 0-3 in front of their home crowd, but they just aren’t as talented as they used to be and I feel the Bengals come away with the win in this one.

Handicap Betting Recommendation: Cincinnati Bengals To Win at 2.20

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots

If you’ve followed my articles previously, you know I don’t like betting on games with the Patriots and try to avoid it where possible but I simply can’t ignore what feels like a low line for the Total Points market. Over 48 points is the bet for me here.

The Patriots on both sides of the ball are the reason I feel quite strongly about this bet, but let’s start with the offense: They’re currently averaging 34 points a game and dropped 40 on Buffalo last week against what is considered a strong Bills defence. Brady and New England are actually on pace offensively to beat their historic 2007 season and, like that year, I doubt they’ll be in any mood to take their foot off the pedal for anyone.

Defensively, with a completely new secondary, they are back to giving up a lot of yards to teams – over 400 a game right now – and even when the DL is able to get consistent pressure as they did last week against Buffalo (8 sacks in that game) there are still too many holes in coverage.

Jacksonville aren’t the most dynamic offensive team but, as they showed last week against the Dolphins (to my annoyance after picking Miami..), if there’s gaps in the secondary they can generate points quickly with some emerging young players like WR Allen Robinson (155 yards with 2 TDs on 6 catches last week). Look for a high scoring affair in New England.

Handicap Betting Recommendation: Total Points Over 48 at 1.92

Prices correct at the time of writing.

By @Tom_Selwyn

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