TITANS (6-3) AT STEELERS (7-2), 8:25 p.m.
TV: Ch. 4, NFL; Radio: WCBS (880)
Steelers by 7; O/U: 44
With the NFL season approaching the three-quarter mark, expect to hear the following five words often: If the playoffs started today.
Well, if they did, the Titans and Steelers would both be in. Tennessee holds the tiebreaker over Jacksonville atop the AFC South and Pittsburgh has a comfortable lead in the AFC North. Both teams are on four-game win streaks, so this should be a fun one. One note to readers who plan on watching: NBC announced it will use its SkyCam feature to televise most of the game. Not a fan, but at least we’ll get a close-up look at offensive linemen holding on every play!
Let’s take a step back and get a better look at both of these teams’ win streaks. The Titans held off the Bengals and Ravens at home the last two weeks, and before that needed overtime to beat winless Cleveland. They beat the Colts by 14 on Monday night in Week 6, but only after a huge fourth quarter. This win streak has been anything but impressive, and going to Pittsburgh will be Marcus Mariota’s biggest test yet.
Pittsburgh followed up its win at then-unbeaten Kansas City with a home win over the Bengals and road wins at Detroit and Indianapolis (20-17 after trailing 17-3). This team has a tendency to not show up against lesser opponents, but with a national audience watching, expect the Steelers’ best: They’ve covered five straight prime-time games, and won eight in a row overall with an average margin of victory of 15 points, according to OddsShark.com.
Ben Roethlisberger is 36-16 in night games. And then there’s this eye-catching stat: In 28 night games, Antonio Brown has 19 TDs, only two fewer than in 59 career 1 p.m. games. Brown, new Steelers rookie sensation JuJu Smith-Schuster (29 catches for 521 yards and 5 TDs) and Le’Veon Bell (10-3 in night games) should get the chance to show off some new end-zone celebrations.
At first glance, this spread felt a little high, especially considering both teams would still be playing if the playoffs started today (there are those five words again). But don’t let last week’s lackluster Steelers performance scare you away. In the first of four straight prime-time games for the Steelers, they’ll be ready for their close-up.
The pick: Steelers
Bob Glauber: Steelers
Tom Rock: Steelers
Calvin Watkins: Steelers