Indianapolis Colts (6-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)
Matt Hasselbeck is 4-0 as the Colts’ starter and the Colts have moved the chains at a 73.60% rate in his 4 starts, as opposed to 69.66% in Andrew Luck’s 7 starts. Certainly getting Luck back healthy for the stretch run and playoffs is very important because, at his best, he’s way better than Hasselbeck, but Luck hasn’t played well so far this year and it’s definitely been nice for them to have a capable game manager backup quarterback like Hasselbeck this year. The Colts’ defense has also been better than it has been in recent years, though losing talented rookie defensive end Henry Anderson for the season a couple weeks ago hurts. He was a big part of why they improved. The Colts are also missing left tackle Anthony Castonzo and middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman, also key players.
The Steelers rank 16th in rate of moving the chains differential, but have moved the chains at a 75.00% rate in the 7 games that Ben Roethlisberger has played, as opposed to 63.64% in their other 4 games. However, they’re far from completely healthy around him, missing running back Le’Veon Bell, center Maurkice Pouncey, and left tackle Kelvin Beachum with serious injuries, three players who were key to the Steelers’ strong offense last season. Of course, if Roethlisberger continues to play like he did last week in Seattle, it might not matter that they’re missing so much talent around him, but, then again, their improved defense looked pretty bad last week.
Considering the Colts rank 14th in rate of moving the chains differential and have played better when Hasselbeck has played, this line seems high at a touchdown, even with the Colts also banged up. The Colts are also in a better spot, as they go to the lowly Jaguars next week (where they’re expected to be 1 point road favorites), while the Steelers have to go to Cincinnati. Underdogs (like the Colts) are 167-98 ATS before being favorites (as the Colts will be next week) when their opponent will next be underdogs (as the Steelers will be next week). The Steelers could also easily be 6 point underdogs in Cincinnati, arguably the toughest game of their season, and teams are 49-83 ATS since 2002 as 6+ point favorites before being 6+ point underdogs. If they were healthier, this would be a higher confidence pick, but I’d still put money on the touchdown with the Colts.
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Indianapolis Colts 24
Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +7