After a great slate of games on Thanksgiving we had some more nail biters on Sunday night with a couple of games going to overtime and another couple being decided by a touchdown and two point conversion being scored in the final 20 seconds.
The Browns and Raiders star running backs Nick Chubb and Josh Jacobs ran in overtime touchdowns to send the Bucs and Seahawks to heart breaking losses. While the result wasn’t catastrophic for the Bucs due to the sorry state of the NFC South, the Seahawks now find themselves a game back from the 49ers in the NFC West and out of the playoff picture for the first time in weeks.
Meanwhile the Ravens were pegged back by Trevor Lawrence and the Joneses in the last minute of the fourth quarter with Marvin scoring the touchdown and Zay catching the two point conversion. And it was Justin Herbert combining with Austin Ekeler and Gerald Everett to get the Chargers over the line against the Cardinals.
Pittsburgh Steelers +2.5 @ Indianapolis Colts: 39.5
On the final day of last year’s regular season, the Steelers pipped the Colts to a playoff berth thanks to Carson Wentz’s capitulation against the Jaguars and the Steelers overtime win over the Ravens. But it became clear after just a few weeks of this season that neither team could have realistic aspirations of making it to the post season this time around and both have taken steps toward building for next year. The Steelers benched Mitch Trubisky in favour of rookie Kenny Pickett after just three games and the Colts fired head coach Frank Reich midway through the season. All that means tonight’s meeting doesn’t really have a lot on the line, but hopefully no one tells the players that and we get an exciting game.
Things haven’t gone to plan for the Steelers since their Week 1 win in Cincinnati and despite one of their best offensive performances of the season they couldn’t beat the Bengals in the return matchup in Pittsburgh last week. There are some positive signs developing though, with the chemistry building between Pickett and fellow rookie George Pickens and with Najee Harris finally passing the 100 total yard mark for the first time this season.
With Jaylen Warren getting injured early on, Harris had 20 carries for the second straight week and made good use of them, going for 90 yards and two touchdowns. A few weeks ago there was talk of Warren taking over the backfield or at least eating into more of Harris’ workload but Harris finally looks fully healthy and should be set for 20+ touches again with Warren ruled out tonight. This game shouldn’t get out of hand for the Steelers and so Harris should be a good bet to hit the over on 62.5 rushing yards tonight and he’s plus money for a TD at 5/4.
Pickens and tight end Pat Freiermuth have taken over as the two most productive options in the Steelers passing offense with Diontae Johnson consistently turning good target numbers into disappointing stat lines. Johnson is yet to score a touchdown this season and has only had over 65 yards once this season (in Week 3). If you think he finally scores this week, you can get him as high as 3/1 but it’s a no from me. Of the three pass catchers I have the most confidence in Pickens going over 42.5 yards against a reasonable Colts defense.
The Colts have been a more competitive team since firing Frank Reich and going back to Matt Ryan as the starting quarterback. They came close to back-to-back wins under interim Jeff Saturday last week with their 16-17 loss to the Eagles.
Since returning to the team, Matt Ryan has taken much better care of the ball with no fumbles or interceptions in either game, after leading the league in turnovers during his first stint as the starter. His return has been good news for the Colts receivers with Michael Pittmann and Parris Campbell seeing drives sustained long enough now for them to get consistent targets. Campbell is having a career year and Pittman’s numbers are also up on previous years (aside from touchdowns), despite him not taking quite the leap many hoped in his third year. I like Campbell to go over 3.5 receptions as he has had at least five in each of his last four games with Matt Ryan. Alec Pierce would be my pick for a touchdown anytime, which you can get as high as 4/1 with Betfair or Paddy Power. The rookie has been up and down but tends to get targeted deep, which is an area where the Steelers give up a lot of touchdowns.
Jonathan Taylor appears to be the main beneficiary of the Colts coaching change but it might just be because he’s the healthiest he’s been since the start of the season that he looks back to his old self. He has had 22 carries in both games with Jeff Saturday as coach and has over 250 total yards across those games to go with two rushing touchdowns. The Steelers are a tough matchup for running backs so his 88.5 yard line seems a little high and I would lean the under there but we know Taylor is capable of breaking off a long one so I’m avoiding.
This is a tough game to call between mediocre teams but I am going to lean towards the Colts as the home team. They only have one win from five as favourite this season though so it’s not with any real confidence. The total tends to hit the under for both of the teams but 39.5 is too low to take, although I don’t mind Jason Bell’s pick on William Hill; Colts to win, under 40 points and a Taylor touchdown (11/2).