AFC Wild Card Betting: Tebow, Broncos look to upset Steelers on Sunday

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Sunday, 1/8/12, 4:30 PM EST, TV:  CBS
Opening Point Spread:  Pittsburgh -8.5
Current Betting Line:  Pittsburgh -9
Opening Total:  35.5
Current Total:  33.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Broncos vs. Steelers AFC Playoff Betting Preview
Broncos QB Tim Tebow will be looking for his first career playoff win on Sunday against the Steelers.

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers visited the Denver Broncos in the postseason, they won 34-17 as 3-point underdogs in the 2006 AFC Championship Game en route to Super Bowl XL.  This year, the Steelers (12-4) are in a much different situation as the heavy favorites against a Denver team that finished in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC West at 8-8 but won tiebreakers against San Diego and Oakland to get into the playoffs.

It also helped that the Broncos had Tim Tebow on their side.  The enigmatic second-year quarterback who won two national championships and a Heisman Trophy while in college at Florida has been far from spectacular for most of the games he has played in this year.  But the fourth quarter produced magical moments during a six-game winning streak that are well-documented and came to an end during the team’s three-game skid to end the regular season.

Denver has some things working in its favor against Pittsburgh (-9, O/U 33.5), as former Super Bowl MVP Ben Roethlisberger has clearly not been the same under center due to a severely sprained left ankle.  Roethlisberger reaggravated the injury in the second half of a 13-9 at Cleveland last week while running back Rashard Mendenhall suffered a torn ACL in his right knee earlier in the game.  Third-year running back Isaac Redman and rookie John Clay will handle the rushing duties in Mendenhall’s absence.

The Steelers will rely on their strong defense to limit Tebow, who has struggled mightily in the past three games.  They ranked first overall in total defense during the regular season, allowing 271.8 yards per game while giving up a league-low 14.2 points per game.

Even though Pittsburgh will be without starting safety Ryan Clark due to a medical issue he is bothered by when playing at high altitudes, linebacker LaMarr Woodley will return after missing six games with a hamstring injury.  Woodley has a sack in eight straight playoff games, and Roethlisberger has won his last seven January games.

The Broncos have won two of the last three meetings with the Steelers both straight-up and against the spread as underdogs and hope their running game and defense can help them hang around until late in the game.  They are 5-1 ATS as underdogs in their last six games overall, with all five covers coming in their recent winning streak.  The UNDER is 3-1 in their past four home games and has cashed in each of Pittsburgh’s last six games as well.

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