Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers: 2015 Week 5 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) at San Diego Chargers (2-2)

Those who follow me know I love to fade significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be overreactions to one week. This game features one of those, as the early line had San Diego favored by 6.5 and they’re now favored by 3.5. Normally I can understand why the line movement occurred (even if I don’t necessarily agree that it should have), but this time I actually don’t understand it at all. Why would this line move 3 points in Pittsburgh’s favor? Because they went to overtime against Baltimore? Because San Diego only beat Cleveland by a field goal? That doesn’t make any sense.

The Steelers rank 12th in rate of moving the chains differential, while the Chargers rank 14th, so this line would definitely make sense if Ben Roethlisberger was healthy, but he’s not and will miss his 2nd straight game after injuring his knee week 3 against St. Louis. Michael Vick will start again and hasn’t played well in Roethlisberger’s absence, completing 24 of 32 and not throwing an interception, but only producing 163 yards and a touchdown, despite having a strong supporting cast around him.

That shouldn’t be a surprise. Vick remained unsigned late into the off-season after being utterly ineffective in limited action last season, completing 52.9% of his passes for an average of 4.99 YPA, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions, while grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th worst ranked quarterback, despite playing just 281 snaps. No one played fewer snaps than him and graded out worse. The Jets moved the chains at a pathetic 64.44% rate in the games in which he played at least 50% of the snaps, even worse than when Geno Smith played, when they moved them at a 69.18% rate.

After the Steelers moved the chains at a 78.65% rate in their first 3 games of the season with Roethlisberger starting, they moved them at a 61.29% rate last week at home against Baltimore in Vick’s first start. Vick is also now 4-18 ATS since 2012, which is ridiculously awful, and he’s not getting better, going into his age 35 season now. He’s a massive downgrade from Roethlisberger, who was playing like arguably the best quarterback in the league before going down and this line should be at least a touchdown in San Diego, based on the difference in talent level between these two teams.

The Chargers do have their own injuries, as left guard Orlando Franklin and left tackle King Dunlap will be out for the 2nd straight game, while wide receiver Steve Johnson will join them, but they do get center Chris Watt back after a one game absence and tight end Antonio Gates back, after he missed the first 4 games of the season with suspension. Besides, their offense played fine last week against the Browns. The issue was their defense and they do have a very weak front 7, but I still like their chances of beating the Steelers by at least 4 points here in San Diego, especially with the Steelers also missing wide receiver Martavis Bryant and linebacker Ryan Shazier with injuries, in addition to Roethlisberger.

The Chargers also have a huge advantage because they’re a West Coast team at night playing an East Coast team. Teams tend to cover the spread about 65% of the time in that situation because, while this is essentially a late afternoon game for the Chargers, it’s a late night game for the Steelers. The only reason I can think for this line being so low is that the Chargers have to go to Green Bay next week, where they are expected to be 9 point underdogs, but the Steelers have to play the Cardinals next, which isn’t much easier. The Steelers are expected to be 2.5 point home underdogs in that one. There’s not even a lot of public action on the Chargers, so it’s more likely that this is just an inaccurate line by the odds makers than a trap line. With even action, I’m confident in the Chargers covering.

San Diego Chargers 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 16

Pick against the spread: San Diego -3.5

Confidence: Medium

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