coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
On 11/11/2013 05:05 PM in NFL

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers: Preview and Pick

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers: Preview and Pick

The Pittsburgh Steelers are having a horrible season but a recent string of victories could get them back into the playoff race. After defeating the Buffalo Bills, the Steelers still have a chance to compete in the week AFC North. The Detroit Lions have to avoid letdown as they go out of conference to take on Steelers as they try and stay on top of the NFC North. With just a one game lead, the Lions cannot afford to have a letdown against the Steelers.

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers Odds

The opening NFL point spread for this game have the Lions listed as (-3) point favorites. The Lions are the better team this season and although they are on the road, they are still getting over 65 percent of the betting action in this contest. This money has not stopped the line form moving in an opposite direction and the current point spread can be found at (-2.5) at several of the top rated online sportsbooks.

If the Lions want to win this game they will need to run the ball. Both of Reggie Bush's 100-yard rushing games this season have come against the Bears and he's done his damage up the middle. On Sunday, Bush rushed for 85 yards on 10 carries up the middle. In two games against Chicago, he's averaged 9.0 yards per rush up the middle compared to just 4.1 yards in all other games. The Steelers defense is always impressive, but will need to play very well to stop this Lions offense.

The latest football betting trends for this game reveal some interesting wagering angles to be aware of in this game. Detroit is 5-10 straight up in its last 15 games on the road and 5-12-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last 18 games on the road. The total has gone under in 4 of Detroit's last 5 games on the road and the total has gone under in 13 of Pittsburgh's last 15 games at home. Detroit is 5-2 straight up in its last 7 games overall and the total has gone over in 4 of Pittsburgh's last 5 games when playing Detroit. Pittsburgh is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games when playing Detroit but they are 7-1 straight in its last 8 games when playing Detroit. Pittsburgh is 3-5-1 ATS in its last 9 games at home and 17-6 straight up in its last 23 games at home.

Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers Pick

With plenty of time to go before the start of the regular season, I will wait to release my pick on this game until we get closer to game day.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
11/12/2013 03:27 PM

The Steelers offense has had a lot of issues this season. Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for 2,534 yards, but he's only got 13 touchdowns to go along with 15 turnovers (10 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles). On top of that, he's been sacked a whopping 35 times already this season (among the most in the NFL). By comparison, Matthew Stafford has taken only 10 sacks (fewest in the NFL), and he's thrown 19 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions (with 2 lost fumbles as well).

To make matters even worse for the Steelers, their running game is pretty bad. Le'Veon Bell has 339 yards and 4 touchdowns on 102 carries, which is good for an average of 3.3 yards per carry. For the Lions, Reggie Bush has averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 133 attempts, and Joique Bell has 3.8 yards per carry on 72 attempts. Pittsburgh's offense is just not very efficient.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
11/12/2013 03:27 PM

Since starting 0-4, the Steelers have been playing much better. They've won three of their last five games and shut down the offenses of the Jets, Ravens and Bills in the process. None of those teams have an offense like the Lions, but Pittsburgh has at least showed an ability to win games over the course of the last month. That wasn't the case for the first month of the season.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
11/12/2013 03:29 PM

If you want to assess Nick Fairley’s season so far, examine his play in the Chicago Bears’ final drive on Sunday.

The Lions defensive tackle redeemed one bone-headed move with two of the bone-jarring variety in the Lions’ 21-19 win.

On a second-and-10 pass play, Fairley slammed quarterback Josh McCown into the turf after he had gotten rid of the ball. It resulted in a unnecessary roughness penalty —15 yards and an automatic first down. No gray area on the penalty call either.

Then on the next snap, the good Fairley sacks McCown for a three-yard loss.

Then eight plays later, after the Bears score to pull within two, Fairley blows up running back Matt Forte on the Bears’ second try on a two-point conversion. It was a game-changing tackle that preserved the win for the Lions.

Inconsistency is Fairley’s biggest issue this season, as it has been in his three seasons in Detroit.

Last year Fairley had a five-game stretch where he was a monster, in a good way with four sacks, 23 tackles and two forced fumbles.

“I think he’s trending that way. He played really well during that stretch last year,’’ coach Jim Schwartz said on Monday. “I think he still has a ways to go to get back to that level. He still has been inconsistent. He played very well in spurts. I think that was encouraging, but there has also been some inconsistency. I think that’s been one of the things that he’s been working on throughout the course of this season.”

Fairley, who plays beside Ndamukong Suh, struggles at times and then comes up huge. It’s odd.

Both are first-round draft picks, but not much alike.

Suh is built so solidly while Fairley has quite the belly. Remember the chest/belly bump between the two after the home win against the Bears six weeks ago? Fairley’s gut knocked Suh on his butt.

We know Fairley’s agile because we saw him leap down the field after he made the win-saving play on Forte.

Schwartz said he doesn’t think Fairley is unfairly judged because he plays next to a Pro Bowl defensive tackle like Suh.

“(Fairley is) a first-round draft pick. He’s a guy that we’re relying on to make plays, but again, that’s not different than any other player,’’ Schwartz said. “You can’t judge one player based on the other. I think every player’s performance and everybody’s role on the team is what it is for that individual person.”

Fairley injured his shoulder in the season opener, missed the second game and it took a few games back for him to find his rhythm.

Schwartz said any young player deals with inconsistency and he didn’t mean it as a negative about Fairley.

“It’s just sort of where he is in his career,’’ Schwartz said. “There’s a lot of players that deal with inconsistencies. It doesn’t have any reflection of their effort and their preparation. Every player from Calvin Johnson to Matt Stafford, they’re all trying to work on being consistent.

“I was just trying to be honest in the assessment. He has been very good at times and other times, there’s things that he still needs to work on, things he needs to do better,’’ Schwartz added.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
11/13/2013 03:05 PM

The Pittsburgh Steelers host Detroit this weekend to take on a Lions team that continues to have its traditional up and down season. Win or lose there has always been one thing consistent with the Lions ever since 2007 – Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, has been a beast on the field. The Steelers secondary has had it’s own ups and downs most of the season in 2013. Will they be able to contain Megatron on Sunday?

Never splashy but consistent in its coverage in years past, the defense has slipped in the standings of being one of the better coverage units in the NFL. Surprisingly, the passing defense is ranked 4th in yards. However, they’ve struggled with missed tackles (34), blown coverage (especially in key moments), and have given up more ‘big plays’ than they are ever accustomed to. Calvin Johnson will be a huge challenge to this team. Megatron has come on the last few years with gaining over 1,000 for three seasons straight and is already has over 900 in nine games this season.

The last time Johnson faced the Steelers was back in 2009, which also happens to be the last season he had under 1,000 yards receiving… but not by much (984). Strangely the Steelers were able to hold Johnson to only two yards. Yes, that’s right 2.0 yards on one catch. He was shut down that game, surprisingly, so the Lions offense targeted a slug of other receivers – with guys like Dennis Northcut getting lots of looks. That says a lot about Ike Taylor back then, who lined up against Johnson most of that game.

Taylor is sure to get the assignment of containing Johnson. I believe he can do it. He’s faced other top receivers like AJ Green (who has the most yards in the NFL as of Week 10) and shows no signs of choking when it comes to stopping a big time receiver. We hardly ever hear his name during a game, and there is a reason for that – he’s covering his assignment enough that a QB is not taking chances and challenging that coverage. Stop Megatron completely like last time? I highly doubt that. But, I think Ike with a little help from his friends Troy and *gulp* Clark can keep Johnson under 70 yards and zero touchdowns. What Steeler Nation should really be concerned about is that with focus being paid to Johnson, Lions QB Matt Stafford will be targeting other receivers. The other members of the Steelers secondary will need to step up just as much on their own assignments as Ike will with his because Johnson is sure to draw some double coverages – meaning one on one with the number two, slots, and TE’s.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
11/14/2013 01:11 PM

The Detroit Lions are in sole possession of first place this late in the season for the first time in 14 years and have a parade of mostly losing teams left on their schedule.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of those opponents with a sub-.500 record, but their stellar pass defense has certainly caught the attention of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

The Lions are also winless in their last nine trips to Pittsburgh and will try to end that slide Sunday against a Steelers team seeking a third straight home victory.

Detroit (6-3) took control of the NFC North with a 21-19 victory at Chicago last Sunday, moving one game ahead of the Bears and Green Bay. Seeking their first division title in 20 years, the Lions are in first this late in the season for the first time since they led the NFC Central after Week 10 in 1999.

''Being successful in this league is dealing with adversity and bouncing back, but it's increasingly becoming part of the scope of the NFL to deal with praise and to deal with the accolades and things like that,'' coach Jim Schwartz said. ''It makes it difficult to stay level headed. It makes it difficult to stay even keeled throughout the course of a season.''

The only team with a current winning record left on Detroit's schedule is Green Bay, which may not have Aaron Rodgers for that Thanksgiving matchup.

Much of the credit for the Lions' success goes to Stafford and Johnson. The quarterback is fourth in the NFL in TD passes (19) and yards (2,836) while Johnson is first in receiving yards per game (113.0) and tied for second in touchdown receptions with nine.

The Steelers (3-6) know they will see more of Johnson than they did the last time these teams met in Pittsburgh's 28-20 victory Oct. 11, 2009. Johnson had only a two-yard reception before leaving with a right knee injury.

"Johnson needs no endorsement from me," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "He is the best wide receiver in the game and one of the best football players period regardless of position in the game of professional football.

"He's got over 900 yards receiving, he's got nine touchdowns through nine games. You can talk about ways to minimize his impact on the game, people, coverages, all of that's been done through nine games this year and he's still at about 100 yards per game and a touchdown per game. Obviously we're going to take our swing at it."

The Lions are wary of a Pittsburgh defense that is limiting opponents to 201.3 passing yards per game to tie for the league's fourth-best mark. The Steelers held Buffalo to an opponent season-low 227 total yards in last Sunday's 23-10 victory.

"Their defense is playing well," Stafford said. "They still have playmakers. They have guys that can get after the passes, guys that can pick it off. (Troy) Polamalu is still a big time playmaker. Got to be mentally ready for this game."

The Steelers won't have rookie safety Shamarko Thomas, out with a high ankle sprain. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley's status is uncertain due to a left calf injury.

Being short-handed would pose new challenges for Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, whose entire playing career between 1959-72 was with Detroit.

"They have a lot of different looks," Stafford said. "Their coordinator is a great coordinator. Been a coordinator in this league for a long time and does a great job."

Detroit's last victory in Pittsburgh dates to before LeBeau's time with the club. The Lions have lost eight straight on the road in this series and also played a 10-10 tie there in 1959 since a 31-28 victory in the Steel City in 1955.

Pittsburgh brushed aside a bit of a distraction during last weekend's win when Ben Roethlisberger refuted a report that he would ask for a trade in the offseason.

''I don't know where that came from,'' he said. ''It is one of the most (untrue) stories that I've ever heard of. I've always said that I want to be a Steeler for life. I love it here. I'm happy here.''

Roethlisberger's 87.6 passer rating is his lowest in five seasons and he managed 204 yards passing against the Bills for his third-lowest total of the season. He has been sacked 35 times for the NFL's second-highest total.

The Steelers have shown signs of improvement with a running game that has topped 100 yards in three of their last four games. They still own the league's sixth-worst rushing attack at 80.6 yards per game as they face a Detroit front that features defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and has held its last three opponents to a combined 157 yards running and 2.5 per attempt.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
11/15/2013 01:05 PM

Roles are reversed a bit this week in Pittsburgh as the traditional powerhouse Steelers are in the cellar of the AFC North while the normally hard-luck Detroit Lions are alone atop the NFC North.

Pittsburgh has taken three straight over the Lions and 11 of 13 overall. However, it's been nearly 60 years since Detroit has won in Western Pennsylvania. Dating back to 1966, the Steelers have won eight consecutive times over the Lions in the Steel City, and you have to go back another 11 years for Detroit's last victory there, a 31-28 triumph back on Nov. 13, 1955.

Ben Roethlisberger was born 27 years after the Lions' last win in his town and the current Steelers quarterback has never lost to Detroit (2-0). Big Ben has done a lot of winning in recent seasons, though, and earned his 90th career victory in just his 135th start last week, the fifth-fastest to that mark in the Super Bowl era.

Roethlisberger threw a touchdown pass and the Pittsburgh defense rebounded from one of the worst performances in franchise history as the Steelers earned a 23-10 win over the Buffalo Bills at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh was coming off a 55-31 shellacking at New England, with the Patriots' points and yardage (610) total marking the highest allowed by the Steelers in their history.

Facing Buffalo rookie quarterback EJ Manuel proved to be the remedy for the unit, however.

Roethlisberger, meanwhile, shook off an interception on the game's opening drive to throw for 204 yards on 18-of-30 passing. Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell added a rushing touchdown for the 3-6 Steelers, who are a game back of both Baltimore and Cleveland in the AFC North and 2 1/2 south of division- leading Cincinnati.

"Yes, it really was. It's what they're capable of and it's the type of men we have," Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said when asked if he expected this kind of bounce-back performance from his club.

Things figure to be far tougher this week against Matthew Stafford and the high-powered Lions, who took over sole possession on first place in the NFC North last week when Calvin Johnson caught two touchdowns in the second half to lift Detroit over the Chicago Bears, 21-19, at Soldier Field.

Stafford passed for just 219 yards on 18-of-35 attempts with an interception, but did have three touchdown passes as the Lions came out of the bye week with their second straight win.

The triumph coupled with Green Bay's loss to Philadelphia on Sunday gave Detroit a one-game lead over both the Packers and Bears for the top spot in the division.

"The guys are happy in there, but we're not satisfied," said Stafford.

Johnson finished the game with six catches for 83 yards and his second touchdown catch was the 63rd of his career, passing Herman Moore to set the Detroit record for most touchdown catches.

Reggie Bush had 105 yards on 14 carries, and caught three passes for eight yards for Detroit, which won both games against the Bears this season. Brandon Pettigrew added five catches for 70 yards in the win.

"We weren't the best on offense, but we didn't have to be," said Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz. "We just have to score one more point than the opponent."

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0
coleryan Posts:21290 Followers:24
11/15/2013 01:05 PM

When it comes to football, perhaps no city is as well versed in the soft bigotry of low expectations as Detroit. Lions fans are always waiting for the other shoe to drop -- especially in Green Bay, Chicago or Minneapolis -- but things are beginning to change.

Hindsight is now telling us that if you pick in that top five of the NFL Draft consistently, you'll probably accumulate enough difference makers to make a postseason run every now and again, and the Lions are doing exactly that.

It seems like Detroit has been picking in the top 10 of the NFL draft forever and few teams across the NFL can match what the Lions roll out on Sundays.

Four players on Detroit's roster were picked by Detroit in the top five overall -- Johnson (No. 2 in 2007), Stafford (No. 1 in 2009), defensive end Ndamukong Suh (No. 2 in 2010) and defensive end Ziggy Ansah (No. 5 in 2013).

Add in Bush, who was selected No. 2 overall in 2006 by New Orleans, and solid picks like defensive tackle Nick Fairley (No. 13 in 2011), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (No. 23 in 2012), linebacker DeAndre Levy (No. 76 in 2009) and safety Louis Delmas (No. 33 in 2009) and it's pretty evident Detroit is one of the more talented teams in football.

Now it's time for the next and perhaps most important step -- consistency.

Schwartz arrived in the Motor City after a decade of Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, Dick Jauron and Rod Marinelli, turning Marinelli's 0-16 embarrassment of 2008 into a playoff team by 2011 before taking a step back last season.

Even with the consistency problems Pittsburgh will have a difficult time dealing with a powerful offense spearheaded by Stafford, who is fourth in the NFL in TD passes with 19, along with Johnson, who is first in receiving yards per game (113.0) and tied for second in touchdown receptions with nine, and Bush, who ranks third in the NFL with 120.8 scrimmage yards per game.

"Johnson needs no endorsement from me," Tomlin said. "He is the best wide receiver in the game and one of the best football players period regardless of position in the game of professional football."

Stafford also seems to amp it up against AFC foes, throwing for 2,686 yards (335.8 per game) with 19 TDs and a 99.2 passer rating in his last eight outings out of conference.

Despite the hiccup against the Pats, Pittsburgh has been pretty solid against the pass this season, allowing 201.3 yards per game, good for fourth in the NFL. The Steelers also held Buffalo to just 227 total yards in last Sunday's win.

"Their defense is playing well," Stafford said. "They still have playmakers. They have guys that can get after the passes, guys that can pick it off. (Troy) Polamalu is still a big-time playmaker."

Pittsburgh, though, will be without emerging rookie safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) and quite possibly veteran linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf), injuries that could make life even tougher for Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who played with the Lions from 1959-72.

"They have a lot of different looks," Stafford said. "Their coordinator is a great coordinator. Been a coordinator in this league for a long time and does a great job."

The Steelers, meanwhile, have been trying to fend off trade rumors surrounding Roethlisberger with both the team and the QB himself denying any such talk.

"I don't know where that came from," Roethlisberger said. "It is one of the most (untrue) stories that I've ever heard of. I've always said that I want to be a Steeler for life. I love it here. I'm happy here."

Happy or not Roethlisberger needs just nine more TD passes to surpass Terry Bradshaw for the most in franchise history (212). He does, however, have to take care of the ball better and improve upon the Steelers' disastrous minus-11 turnover ratio.

As always the running game is what makes Pittsburgh go and Bell is slowly starting to come on, rushing for his fourth TD last week. Since 2011 the Steelers are 15-3 when rushing for 100-or-more-yards in a game.

  • Last 7 Days Record: 2-3-0