Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3-1) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-4)
Typically the rule of thumb with the Chargers is to bet them on the road and bet against them at home. The Chargers hardly have any fans in Los Angeles and usually play in front of mostly road crowds, which means they don’t have a typical homefield advantage, but it also means they tend to be underrated away from home. Overall, the Chargers are 21-13 ATS on the road and 13-21 ATS at home since moving to Los Angeles.
However, the Chargers do have one big advantage this week, with this game being at night against an Eastern Time Zone opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers. A Pacific Time Zone team covers at about a 67% rate all-time in a night game against an Eastern Time Zone team, regardless of where the game is played. The Steelers are likely to be feeling much more tired in the second half because they are accustomed to a later time zone, which should allow the Chargers to pull away. It doesn’t help matters for the Steelers that they are coming off of a long overtime game, which resulted in a tie. There is limited history, but teams are just 11-17 ATS all-time after a tie, so the Steelers could be especially tired in this game.
The Chargers only have one win this season by more than six points and, dating back to the start of last season, they have just three wins by more than six points, with one coming against the Chiefs backups in a meaningless week 17 game and another coming against the eventual 1-15 Jaguars. That makes it tough to confidently bet on the Chargers as 6-point favorites, but the Steelers are missing some key personnel and, despite their record, might be among the worst teams in the league right now.
The Steelers have been outscored by 33 points in their three losses, while outscoring their opponents by just 25 points in their five wins and, of course, last week they played to a tie with the winless Lions at home in Pittsburgh. The Steelers did not have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in that game against the Lions and he will return this week, but the way he has played this season, that barely matters, as he’s not much of an upgrade on Mason Rudolph. It’s very possible the Steelers would have still struggled to pull out a win over the Lions even with Roethlisberger in the lineup.
The Steelers went 12-4 a year ago, but they were not as good as their record, winning a lot of close games against an easy schedule, and they were carried by a dominant defense, with their offense being among the worst in the league. This season, their offense has been about the same, ranking 26th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but their defense has fallen to 20th in schedule adjusted efficiency. In general, it’s much tougher to maintain high level defensive play year-to-year than high level offensive play, but the Steelers lost significant personnel in the off-season and have continued to lose key players to injury, so they have had more regression than most top defenses and will likely see that continue as their injury list grows.
Already without key defensive linemen Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu, the Steelers will now be without Defensive Player of the Year candidate TJ Watt, talented safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, and top cornerback Joe Haden this week. Meanwhile, their offense, which already has one of the worst offensive lines in the league, will be without their best offensive lineman Kevin Dotson. A mediocre team even when not missing all these key personnel, I have the Steelers six points below average in my roster rankings.
The Chargers didn’t have many blowout wins last season and don’t have many blowout wins this season, but they are still better than they were a year ago and their lack of blowout wins this season probably has more to do with their schedule, which has been among the toughest in the league. They haven’t faced an easy opponent since their week one trip to Washington and it’s arguable that this game against the Steelers at night is an even easier matchup than that.
The Chargers are only two points above average in my roster rankings and shouldn’t get the full homefield advantage adjustment, but we’re still getting good line value at -6 with the Chargers, who are in a good spot and have enough of a talent edge in this game to get a rare multi-score victory. I am not placing a bet on the Chargers right now, because I am hoping this line drops to 5.5 and I want to confirm that Joey Bosa, who still needs to clear COVID protocols, will play, but it’s very possible I will be doing an update and betting this game before gametime.
Update: There has not been confirmation on Bosa’s status, but heavy sharp action on the Steelers has shifted this line down to 5. Bosa will play unless he surprisingly tests positive today, so I want to lock this in before it goes back up as the Chargers are simply a much more talented team than the Steelers, given all that the Steelers are missing.
Los Angeles Chargers 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 13
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -5