AFC Divisional Playoffs Betting Preview: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos

2016 NFL Playoffs
AFC Divisional Playoffs
#6 Pittsburgh Steelers at #1 Denver Broncos
Sunday, January 17, 2016, 4:40 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Denver, Colorado
Opening Line: Denver -3 (-130)
Current Line: Denver -7 1/2
Opening Total: 40
Current Total: 41
Opening Money Line: Broncos -220 / Steelers +180
Current Money Line: Broncos -320 / Steelers +260

Denver is a 7.5 point favorite against Pittsburgh Sunday in the Divisional playoffs.
Denver is a 7.5 point favorite against Pittsburgh Sunday in the Divisional playoffs.

The Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers meet for the eighth time in the playoffs Sunday in Denver. The 12-4 Broncos won the AFC West by a game over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos finished in a tie for home field advantage with the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals. Denver won the tiebreaker for the #1 seed by beating both teams head to head. Pittsburgh finished second in the AFC North at 10-6 behind the Bengals. The Steelers were the #6 seed in the AFC and beat the #3 seed Bengals last week in Cincinnati 18-16. The winner between the Steelers and Broncos will play the New England Patriots next week in the AFC Championship game.

The win was costly though as receiver Antonio Brown suffered a concussion and is out Sunday. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also suffered a shoulder injury, reportedly involving some torn ligaments. He is probable Sunday. Running back DeAngelo is also out with a foot injury for the Steelers after missing last week against the Bengals. The game against the Broncos was off the board for much of the week and opened at Denver -3. It has been as high as 9 at some points in the week.

Denver leads the series 18-11-1 against Pittsburgh, including 4-3 in the playoffs. Denver has won four of the last six overall in the series. The Steelers beat the Broncos 34-27 in Pittsburgh December 20. Denver led that game 27-13 at halftime, but would not score in the second half.

Pittsburgh is coached by Mike Tomlin. The Steelers have home wins over the San Francisco 49ers 43-18, Arizona Cardinals 25-13, Oakland Raiders 38-35, Cleveland Browns 30-9, Indianapolis Colts 45-10 and Broncos 34-27, along with road wins at the St. Louis Rams 12-6, San Diego Chargers 24-20, Bengals 16-10 and Browns 28-12. Pittsburgh has road losses at the New England Patriots 28-21, Kansas City Chiefs 23-13, Seattle Seahawks 39-30 and Baltimore Ravens 20-17, along with home losses to the Ravens 23-20 in overtime and Bengals 33-20.

Pittsburgh was a 2 point favorite against Cincinnati and the total was 45.5. The Steelers took a 15-0 lead into the fourth. Cincinnati rallied to take a 16-15 lead with 1:50 left. After a Pittsburgh interception, Cincinnati had a chance to run out the clock but they fumbled. Pittsburgh took over at their own 9 with 1:23 left.  With 22 seconds left Pittsburgh had first and 10 at the Cincinnati 47. Roethlisberger had returned to the game for the last series. He threw the ball incomplete to Antonio Brown. However, Brown was blindsided helmet to helmet by Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Brown would leave the game, but Cincinnati was called for unnecessary roughness. While Brown was being tended to, Bengals’ defensive back Adam Jones was flagged for another 15 yards, moving the ball to the Cincy 17. The Steelers kicked the game winning field goal. The teams combined for six turnovers including 4 by the Bengals. Pittsburgh is 9-6-2 ATS and the total is 6-11 this season.

Denver is coached by Gary Kubiak. The Broncos have home wins over the Baltimore Ravens 19-13, Minnesota Vikings 23-20, Green Bay Packers 29-10 and New England Patriots 30-24 in overtime, Bengals 20-17 in overtime, and San Diego Chargers 27-20 in the last game of the season, along with road wins over the Kansas City Chiefs 31-24, Detroit Lions 24-12, Oakland Raiders 16-10, Cleveland Browns 26-23 in overtime, Chicago Bears 17-15 and San Diego Chargers 17-3. Denver has home losses to the Chiefs 29-13 and Raiders 15-12, along with a road losses at the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 and Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 last week. The Broncos have won two straight games.

Denver was a 10 point favorite against San Diego and the total was 42. Denver needed a win and a New England loss to Miami to clinch home field in the playoffs. The Patriots lost earlier in the day. San Diego took a 13-7 lead in the third quarter. Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler was benched after throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble. The Broncos brought in their back-up, some guy named Peyton Manning. Manning hadn’t played since suffering a broken foot against Kansas City November 15. Denver trailed 20-17 with 12:58 left. The Broncos scored the last 10 points of the game to win 27-20. Denver had 503 total yards but also had 5 turnovers. Denver is 8-8 ATS and the total is 6-9-1 this season.

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Pittsburgh is outscoring teams 26-20 this season. The Steelers are #11 in points allowed and #4 in scoring. Pittsburgh is averaging 395 yards per game on offense including 288 passing and 108 rushing yards. The Steelers are #3 in total and passing offense. On defense, Pittsburgh is allowing 363 total yards per game including 272 passing and 91 rushing yards. Pittsburgh is #5 in rush defense but #30 against the pass.  The Steelers are  79/205 on third and fourth down conversions. Opponents are 97/249. Pittsburgh has forced 48 sacks and allowed 33 this year. The Steelers are +2 in turnovers, with 2 defensive touchdowns and a special teams touchdown.

Pittsburgh has used three quarterbacks this season. Ben Roethlisberger had completed 68% of his passes for 3,938 yards with 21 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, and also has 29 rushing yards. He missed several games with a foot injury. Michael Vick started a few games but was benched in favor of Landry Jones. Vick has thrown for 371 yards with 2 interceptions, and also has 99 rushing yards. Jones has passed for 513 yards with 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

Running back DeAngelo Williams has 200 carries for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 40 catches for 367 yards. He is questionable with a foot injury. Le’Veon Bell has 113 carries for 556 yards and 3 touchdowns along with 24 catches for 136 yards. He is out for the season with a torn ACL. Besides Vick and Roethlisberger, no other running back has more than 4 carries.

Receiver Antonio Brown has 136 catches for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns, plus 28 rushing yards. Martavis Bryant has 50 catches for 765 yards and 6 touchdowns. Markus Wheaton has 44 catches for 749 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Tight end Heath Miller has 60 catches for 545 yards and 2 touchdowns. Darrius Heyward-Bey has 21 catches for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sammie Coates is questionable with an illness. Three offensive linemen are on the injury report.

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Denver is outscoring teams 22-19 this season. The Broncos are #4 in points allowed. Denver averages 356 yards per game on offense, including 248 passing and 107 rushing yards. On defense, Denver is allowing 283 total yards including 200 passing and 84 rushing yards. Denver leads the league in total & pass defense and is #3 against the rush. The Broncos are 86/238 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 85/241. Denver has forced 52 sacks but allowed 39 sacks this season. Denver is -4 in turnovers. The Broncos have six defensive/special teams  touchdowns and have allowed three.

Peyton Manning has completed 59.8% of his passes for 2,249 yards with 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Manning will start against Pittsburgh. Brock Osweiler has started in place of Manning. Osweiler has completed 61.8% of his passes for 1,967 yards with 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, and has 61 rushing yards and a touchdown. He is questionable  with a knee injury.

Running back Ronnie Hillman has 207 carries for 863 yards and 7 touchdowns along with 24 catches for 111 yards. C.J. Anderson has 152 carries for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 25 catches for 183 yards.

Receiver DeMaryius Thomas has 105 catches for 1,304 yards and 6 touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders has 76 catches for 1,135 yards and 6 touchdowns. Tight end Owen Daniels has 46 catches for 517 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bennie Fowler and Jordan Norwood will also get some targets. The Broncos acquired tight end Vernon Davis in a trade with the 49ers. Five defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report.

Pittsburgh is 5-0 ATS after rushing for 150 yards or more, 4-1 in divisional playoff games, 11-3-1 in January, 12-4-1 against teams with winning records, 21-8-1 against teams with winning home records, 7-3-1 in road games, 1-3-1 after a straight up win, 0-3-1 in road games and in playoff games. The underdog is 6-2 ATS in this series recently. The over is 6-1 overall and 4-1 in Denver in this series.

Denver is 8-3 ATS after failing to cover, 13-6 after rushing for more than 150 yards, 3-7 after passing for more than 250 yards, 1-4 at home, after gaining more than 350 total yards, and in home playoff games, 1-5 in playoff games and in January, and 0-4 in Divisional games. The Broncos have covered 4 of the last 5 games in this series.

Although Pittsburgh just beat Denver about a month ago, the Steelers are ravaged by injuries. I just think Denver has two much at home and I like them to win a low scoring game.

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