Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM
SNF - Steelers at Chargers
Editor's Note: Don't miss out on NFL Winners from Matt Blunt on VegasInsider.com this season. Click to win!
NFL Week 6 Sunday Night Football Betting Preview
Pittsburgh Steelers at L.A. Chargers (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET)
SNF Betting Results
After grabbing an easy winner two weeks ago with the 'under' in the Cowboys/Saints game, last week's play on the 'over' in the Colts/Chiefs game was an easy loser in that the two teams never came close to sniffing that total. The Chiefs have a bit of a dilemma on their hands right now with how they expect to handle man coverage, but for an offensive mind like head coach Andy Reid, I wouldn't expect Kansas City's offensive struggles against that form of defense to continue. It's a copy cat league though, so until KC does figure out how to beat man, they are going to continue to see it in high doses.
This week's SNF game has a pair of teams that would tell you they've drastically underperformed this year, as at the beginning of the year, not many would have had the Chargers and Steelers a combined 3-7 straight up heading into this contest. But that's exactly where they stand as neither of them are at .500, and are probably another loss or two away from potentially packing things in for 2019. That's life in the NFL though, and if you get hit hard by the injury bug early in a season like these two teams have, it's awfully tough to turn things around enough to make the year a successful one.
Pittsburgh and Los Angeles have definitely been hit hard by injuries this year, with the most recent significant loss being Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. Rudolph took a brutal head shot last week, was forced out of the game, and there is no timetable for his return. That means that it's third stringer Devlin Hodges shot at making a start in the NFL this week and for an undrafted guy to be thrust into that role just six weeks in is tough.
At the same time, The Chargers have been hit with injuries at nearly every position on their roster, and starting center Mike Pouncey is the latest Charger to go down. Losing your starting center is huge because he's the guy that's out there scanning defenses and calling out protection schemes – as well as having his hands on the ball each and every play – so it's not like the Chargers don't have their own adversity on the injury front to deal with as well.
All these absences have predictably had an effect on where this SNF total was going to come out, as 41.5 is the number that the game opened at, and it's stayed relatively static all week with about 65% support on the 'under.' And at least on paper, the 'under' does tend to make a lot of sense. You've got two losing teams, one on their third QB of the season, both marred by numerous injuries offensively, and because of all that, neither averages more than the 20.6 points per game the Chargers put up. Pittsburgh comes in at 19.8 PPG on the year, so a total around 41 makes a lot of sense, and to many it makes a lot of sense to go 'under' as well given the extenuating circumstances.
Yet, at the same time, the Chargers have turned the ball over four different times this year inside the 5-yard line, and have shot themselves in the foot all year long with turnovers. LA has turned the ball over eight times this year with the vast majority directly taking points off the board for them. Sloppy play like that is why they come into this game with a losing record, and if they are able to clean up those things this week, I think we could see them look like the team that made it to the Divisional round last January.
On the flip side, Hodges is a relative unknown other then what we saw from him in his relief appearance last week. And while fear of the unknown in all aspects of life tends to have us shy away from those scenarios, you listen to the market here and they've already decided that he's going to be in well over his head this week. It's 'under' recommendations everywhere in the industry, and I'm just not sure this game will be as easy as that.
Sure, Hodges could end up being well over his head and look like the undrafted QB that he is, but him being on unknown commodity also hurts LA's defensive gameplanning because they really don't have a great idea of what to expect. That means the defensive strategy is probably going to look very vanilla early on to leave plenty of room for adjustments, and that in itself isn't an 'over' killer.
Hodges being an unknown, and all the injuries across the board have me ignoring this side completely out of simply not knowing what to expect. You take away all the turnovers LA has had in critical spots this year and they probably do deserve to be laying about a TD that they are, but at the same time, they've got next to nothing in terms of home field advantage at that stadium, and Pittsburgh may be 1-4 SU, but their last three losses have come by a grand total of nine points.
If Hodges looks like the deer-in-headlights QB that seemingly the world expects him to be, the Chargers likely get the cover. If he doesn't and looks like at least a capable backup in this league, Pittsburgh could keep it close. I'm not about to venture a guess on what this game script turns out to be, so good luck to those of you who are venturing out on a side play for this game.
I will venture a guess on the idea that Hodges isn't going to struggle nearly as much as the majority in this industry believe, especially if he gets to see vanilla coverages for the first 15-30 minutes. Yes, the Chargers defense has been great all year in allowing 18.8 points per game, but in each one of those, they knew how to prepare and what to expect from the opposing QB/offense. That's not the case here, and I would not be surprised to see Hodges and the Steelers throw some wrinkles at the Chargers early to keep them off-balanced. If that happens, points should come in a hurry, because the Steelers organization definitely saw enough from Hodges at the collegiate level to give him a contract. Pittsburgh believes he has the skill set to help this organization if he were needed, and right now he's needed.
At the same time, the Chargers offense should be able to clean up these mistakes that have plagued them in recent losses, and make the most of their scoring opportunities. LA has scored 30 points in both of their SU victories this year, so if you do believe the Chargers win this game – as the point-spread would suggest – how can you not figure that LA won't threaten that 30-point barrier offensively here?
The Steelers defense has allowed at least 24 points to every team they've faced this year that's got at least one victory in 2019 – sorry Bengals fans – and that number has been hit by Steelers opponents in both of Pittsburgh's road games this year.
Finally, we can't forget that SNF games this year are a perfect 6-0 'under' this year, and while 'under' supporters will use that as more evidence for that selection, I view it as a negative in that regard. Everyone already wants the 'under' in this game because of the injury situation on both sides, and then there is the confirmation bias on the 'under' run on SNF. To me, that sets up as almost a perfect storm to be contrarian as contrarian gets, and go 'over' this number in a heartbeat. The fact that this game looks like an easy 'under' to the world only makes me feel stronger about doing that too.
So it's not like I haven't been wrong before, and I'll be wrong plenty more in the future, but I've got to give the benefit of the doubt to the Steelers organization in terms of prepping Hodges for this start and to have a play calling strategy that gives him the best chance to succeed. At the same time, I've got to give the benefit of the doubt to a QB like Philip Rivers that he and the rest of the Chargers offense can clean up their turnover issues sooner rather then later and start putting more TD's on the board.
I fell victim to believing last week's SNF game with KC and their high octane offense would be the one to crack the goose egg on 'overs' for SNF this year, but it was probably always going to be a game that everyone least expects to do so that actually does it. This Steelers game with a 3rd/4th string QB at the helm and a banged up Chargers team definitely fits that profile.
Best Bet: Over 41.5