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GIANTS AT STEELERS

OCTOBER 2008



In what could possibly be the best game of the week, the 1st place NFC East Division New York Giants head on down to Heinz Field to take on the AFC North Division leading Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams are currently sitting at 5-1 heading into this contest, and both are coming off of impressive wins in Week 7.

The Giants handled the San Francisco 49ers with relative ease, and barely squeaked out the cover as large home favorites in a 29-17 win at the Meadowlands. The Giants needed a 48 yard, 4th quarter FG by John Carney, and a subsequent safety with under 5 minutes remaining to pull off the cover though, after the 49ers returned a blocked FG attempt for a TD late in the 3rd quarter to pull within 7 at 24-17.


The Giants controlled the clock, possessing the ball for 34:30 to the 49ers 25:30, with 29 rushing attempts for 116 yards, by utilizing their 3-headed rushing attack featuring RB’s Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Duane Ward. Brandon Jacobs got the bulk of the work with 17 attempts for 69 yards and 2 TD’s, the longest of which was a 26 yard scamper in the 1st quarter to end a 54 yard, 4 play drive that took just 1:49 off the clock.


Manning didn’t have huge numbers, as he only completed 16 of 31 passing attempts for 166 yards and 1 TD, with most of the completions netting under 15 yards. Interestingly, RB Ward was the leading receiver with 3 catches for 50 yds, and he also had the longest gain of the day with a 35 yd catch and run. Plaxico Burress, returning from his suspension, caught just 3 passes for 24 yards but one was a 6 yard catch for a TD in the 3rd quarter that put the Giants up 24-10. The Giants offense did not turn the ball over and the OL did not give up a sack.
 

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The New York defense played well in allowing the 49er offense just 35 yards rushing and 10 pts. They did allow some yardage through the air though as 49er QB O’Sullivan was able to hit 16 of 28 attempts for 256 yards, and quite a few decent gains, the longest of which was a 30 yard TD pass to WR Josh Morgan. However, the Giant ‘D’ was able to force 3 San Francisco turnovers, 2 of which were turned into 10 pts. by the offense, and the 3rd being an INT in the end zone to kill a 49er scoring opportunity near the end of the 1st half. Plus, they added the safety in the 4th quarter which netted another 2 points. And in addition, they were able to get plenty of pressure on the QB as they recorded another 6 sacks to now give them 21 sacks on the year.


Overall, you could say it was a rather sloppily played game though as both teams combined for 24 penalties for over 210 backwards-yards.

The Steelers, as a large road favorite, had a little easier time in dispensing of the winless Cincinnati Bengals in a divisional match-up that resulted in a 38-10 win and cover, although they did wait until the 4th quarter to do most of the damage. Leading 17-10 entering the final quarter, the Steelers put up 21 unanswered points to turn the game into a rout.


The Pittsburgh defense held the Bengals to just 259 offensive yards and didn’t allow a single play over 19 yards, while sacking QB Fitzpatrick 7 times and hurrying him all day.


The Steeler ‘D’ (and my fantasy football ‘D’!) now leads the entire NFL with 25 sacks on the year. Leading the way have been OLB’s James Harrison, with 8.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles, and LaMarr Woodley, with 7.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and an INT. Together, they obviously form one of the most formidable duos in the NFL.

Roethlisberger was a solid 17 of 28 for 216 yards, 2 TD’s and 0 INT’s, the longest gain being a 50 yard TD strike to WR Nate Washington. QB Bryon Leftwich even got into the action late in the 4th quarter, completing 3 of 3 for 34 yards including a 16 yard TD toss to Hines Ward. RB Mewelde Moore, filling in admirably for the injured Willie Parker, added 120 rushing yards on just 20 carries and 2 TD’s, as well as 14 yards on 5 receptions and another TD through the air. The OL did not allow any sacks, and the offense did not have a single turnover in the game. Overall, a pretty solid effort on both offense and defense, and with just 3 penalties for 15 yards as a team.

Pittsburgh has played the tougher schedule to date, with a home game against Baltimore, and road games against Philadelphia and Jacksonville. Overall, they have had to play 4 out of their 6 games on the road. But regardless of that, they have still allowed the second lowest point total in the AFC at 89 points, for an average of just 14.8 points per game. They have averaged 23.5 points per game and have out-scored opponents 61-37 in their 2 home games. One was a 38-17 rout of Houston in the opener, and the other was a 23-20 OT win over Baltimore in Week 4. This will be their first home appearance in 4 weeks, counting the bye in Week 6. On offense, they are currently ranked 12th overall in the AFC, 10th rushing and 9th passing. As a defense, they are ranked number 1 overall in the AFC, 2nd against the rush and 1st against the pass.

For being the Super Bowl champs, the Giants have certainly lucked out in the scheduling so far. For starters, 4 of their 6 games have been at home. Their toughest match-up to date, without a doubt, was the opener at home against division rival Washington. In that game, they were able to jump out to an early 16-0 lead, as the Redskins looked out of sorts in the 1st half. But then the Skins settled down and out-scored the Giants 7-0 for the final 32 minutes. Other than that game, the Giants have gone on to face 5 teams with a combined record of 7-25. The 0-7 Cincinnati Bengals took them to OT in a Week 3 game at the Meadowlands. And then they got creamed, 35-14, by the 2-4 Cleveland Browns in their last road game. The Giants are currently ranked number 2 overall in the NFC in offense, 1st in rushing and 7th in passing. And they are ranked number 1 overall in the NFC in defense, 2nd against the run and 4th against the pass.

The Giants and Steelers have had 2 common opponents this year, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Steelers beat Cleveland 10-6 on the road (and in very foul weather), and they beat Cincinnati on the road 38-10. The Giants beat Cincinnati at home in a 26-23 OT win, and they lost on the road to Cleveland 35-14.

The Steelers are 9-1 SU in their last 10 regular season home games. Since 2004, when Roethlisberger became the starter, to present, the Steelers are 27-7 SU at home in the regular season. The Steelers are 12-6 ATS their last 18, and 9-4 ATS in their last 13 as home favorites. Going back to the start of 2004, they are just 1-5 ATS as a home favorite of 3 or less, however all 5 losses were to AFC opponents. They are 10-4 ATS their last 14 games vs the NFC. Since 2004, they are 7-2 ATS as a home favorite vs an NFC opponent, and they are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games in that same role.


New York is 8-2 SU in their last 10 road games. Since 2004, they are 20-14 SU on the road, and they are 17-9 SU in their last 26 road games. Since 2004, they are 14-8-1 ATS as a road underdog, and, they are 11-5-1 ATS in their last 17 games as a road dog. But they are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games in that same role. They are 3-1-1 in their last 5 games as a road dog of 3 points or under. And since 2004, they are 8-10 ATS vs a non-conference opponent, but they are just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games vs a non-conference opponent. Since 2004, they are 3-5 SU on the road vs a non-conference team.

You can certainly find some trends to support either team, however, Pittsburgh has got to be one of the toughest NFL venues for any road team. Pittsburgh also appears to do better vs non-conference foes than New York does. Pittsburgh has faced a much tougher schedule this year, not only considering their opponents, but the fact that 4 of their 6 games have been on the road. As a result, I think it makes their defensive numbers look that much more impressive. While New York’s do look very good also, they are as the result of a very easy schedule so far, including lots of home dates. And here’s what could be the clincher for me. New York has a tough divisional game coming up next week vs their arch rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. And that game is followed by an equally important game vs division rival Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh will be without the services of WR Santonio Holmes, who has decided to pull a ‘Ricky’ on us. And, of course, RB Willie Parker will most likely miss another game. But, Mewelde Moore has filled in admirably in Parker’s absence. And WR’s Nate Washington and Limas Sweed can cover Holmes role as the deep threat, so I don’t believe Holmes’ absence will necessarily be a negative. I know the betting line certainly hasn’t changed with the news. So currently the Steelers are a 3 point favorite at +105 odds. A lot of people seem to be enamored with Eli and the Super Bowl champ Giants. But Pittsburgh has got very little respect this year, despite the fact that they keep on winning, and they’ve got a killer defense. Manning can get rattled, as we saw in the road game at Cleveland. I really like Pittsburgh in this home role as a small favorite, so I’m going with the Steelers –3 at the very generous odds.

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