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NFL: SAN DIEGO at PITTSBURGH (4:30 PM ET, CBS)



 

Football Betting Games

Pittsburgh, and QB Ben Roethlisberger, was lucky to get a bye. With him back, the Steelers host upstart San Diego as a 6-point favorite in the final divisional playoff. These teams played a competitive 11-10 affair in November, a game known for its contro



2009-01-09

Pittsburgh, and QB Ben Roethlisberger, was lucky to get a bye. With him back, the Steelers host upstart San Diego as a 6-point favorite in the final divisional playoff. These teams played a competitive 11-10 affair in November, a game known for its controversial finish that affected millions of bettors when a last second Pittsburgh return TD by Troy Polamalu was waved off by officials. In any case, Pittsburgh has played well vs. San Diego, 8-3 SU & ATS in the L11 meetings. However, HC Norv Turner’s teams are 6-0 ATS in the playoffs after the upset of Indy, and with San Diego, his record is 5-2 SU & 6-1 ATS in revenge spots. The Chargers boast the NFL’s top passing game at 7.9 yards per attempt. Pittsburgh is #1 defensively in that stat, 4.7 PYA allowed.

Somewhere along the way to the Super Bowl, three-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning seems to lose his shield of invincibility against San Diego. For the second straight year, the Colts’ season ended against the Chargers, after they eked out a 23-17 overtime victory at Qualcomm Stadium in the Wild-Card round last Saturday. Backup running back Darren Sproles, subbing for the injured LaDainian Tomlinson, totaled 328 yards, including 105 on the ground, and the game-winning 22-yard touchdown run in overtime.

The Chargers, who needed to win four straight games just to make the postseason, snapped the Colts’ nine-game run and advanced to the AFC Divisional round for the third straight year. Second-seed Pittsburgh awaits and already owns an 11-10 win over the Chargers at Heinz Field in Week 11. Though the Steelers failed to score a touchdown—their 11 points came on three field goals and a safety—they did pile up 410 total yards, including 115 on the ground from Willie Parker and 124 more through the air on 11 catches by wide receiver Hines Ward.

The Chargers limited Manning to just one touchdown pass, but he did complete three throws of at least 20 yards and added 30 more on a pass interference against Quentin Jammer. The secondary, a weak link for San Diego, allowed 37 plays of at least that length during the regular season and ranked 31st against the pass (247.4 yards per game). Ben Roethlisberger completed 31 of 41 throws for 308 yards the first time around, but keeping in line with his crash test dummy treatment for most of the year (46 sacks), the Chargers dropped him four times.

Pittsburgh didn’t see much of Sproles—he had just one carry and one kick return—but the special teams dynamo can expect another major dose of carries after 22 against Indianapolis. Philip Rivers has enjoyed a career season without a top-notch running game, but lacking that dimension in the first trip to Pittsburgh, he was held without a touchdown and threw two picks. He needs the 5-6, 181-pound Sproles to slither through a Steelers run defense that’s allowed just 80.2 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry.

PREDICTION: The Chargers are winless in Pittsburgh during the regular season (0-13) but perfect in the playoffs (2-0). They need a perfect combination of ball control and defense to have any chance of upsetting the Steelers. Limiting Manning to one touchdown looks great on paper, but he still topped 300 yards and moved the ball with no help from the ground game. PITTSBURGH 30, SAN DIEGO 17


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