As a result of COVID-19-related rescheduling, the Washington Football Team hasn’t played in nearly two weeks. The last time we saw Dan Snyder’s club, the team was handily taking care of the Cowboys on Thanksgiving behind a breakout game by Antonio Gibson and a defense that stifled Dallas’ offense.
Winning against a broken-down Cowboys team and taking down the 11-0 Steelers are surely two different tasks. How will Washington fare in Pittsburgh on Monday’s happy hour showdown?
- Line: Steelers: -6.5 (-110)
- Total Points: 43.5 (-110)
- Projected Weather: 33 Degrees, light breeze, < 1% chance of precipitation.
*Odds via DraftKings
While Washington has won two straight games and the story of Alex Smith‘s comeback is surely an honorable feat, the fact remains that this offense simply isn’t that good. Entering Week 13, the Football Team ranked 27th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA (31st in the passing game, 8th in the running game).
While Smith is completing 69% of his passes, he’s relying on the athletes around him to find yards after the catch, as he’s throwing for just 4.9 air yards per attempt (last in the league). Against a disciplined Steelers’ defense, those opportunities will be likely be bottled up. Smith hasn’t faced a defense this tough since taking over the QB role.
Is Pittsburgh’s defense vulnerable? The Steelers are coming off a short week and will be without Bud Dupree (lost for the season with a knee injury) and Devin Bush (torn ACL earlier in the season). Still, this is a deep defensive front seven that gave Baltimore fits last week, notching three sacks and five QB hits. Smith and Washington won’t have an easy time despite the Black & Gold being thin at linebacker.
Running room for Gibson? Pittsburgh’s defense is elite, though they have given up some explosive plays to running backs that have the ability to get past the first level of the defense. Gibson flashes the skills to take advantage and Washington’s offensive line ranks 11th in adjusted line yards, though it’s fair to wonder how the game script will factor into the Football Team’s opportunities to run the ball.
I’d bet we see more J.D. McKissic than we have over the last two games, as he’s the teams’ preferred pass-protecting back and Washington is expected to need that with Pittsburgh’s exotic rushes and the expected game flow.
Should we worry about the Steelers’ offense? As we mentioned last week, Pittsburgh’s offense isn’t as grand as its reputation might allude. They enter Week 13 ranked 15th in DVOA and while in the past, a home tilt meant a splurge of points, that may no longer be the case.
Pittsburgh’s schedule has been filled with teams that dwell among the worst in the league on defense. Outside of the Ravens, the team has only faced one team with an above-average defense, per DVOA (the Eagles), and Baltimore is the only top-10 defense they’ve seen all year. Washington will mark the second, which could be problematic for Ben Roethlisberger & Co. at home.
Can Washington pull off the upset? The Football Team’s fifth-ranked defense, which is fueled by its -10.9% DVOA pass defense (3rd in the league) should slow down Big Ben, however, this club has been torched by teams that present a consistent running game.
The Browns, Ravens, Rams, and Cardinals have all put up 30+ on this unit behind strong running games. Pittsburgh will be without James Conner, though Benny Snell & Co. should be able to handily pull out a win. However, I worry about the backdoor cover as well as Pittsburgh’s potential kicking woes (the Steelers will turn to Matt Wright as Chris Boswell is out).
I’ll sprinkle a bit on Pittsburgh’s Moneyline as well as place them in a 6-point teaser with the Bills to bring them to -0.5 and Buffalo to +5.
- Pick: Steelers 26-20
- Bets: Steelers ML, Steelers 6-point teaser (with Bills on Monday night)