Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints (-5.5)
Sun. 12/23, 4:25 p.m. ET
Three things you need to know before betting on Steelers-Saints:
1. A pair of division leaders coming off victories over hated rivals meet on Sunday afternoon when the Saints host the Steelers. Pittsburgh's upset of New England in Week 15 kept the Steelers in first place in the AFC North, but that lead is just a half-game over Baltimore. New Orleans, meanwhile, now has twice as many victories (12) as any other NFC South team and can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win on Sunday. Playing at home has proven to be a significant advantage for the Saints, who have won 13 of the last 14 games in the Superdome, while winning and covering four straight with double-digit victories. After crushing Washington 43-19 in Week 5, New Orleans outlasted the Rams 45-35, destroyed Philadelphia 48-7 and cruised past Atlanta 31-17. The Saints have also won eight home straight games (7-1 against the spread) when favored between three and seven points.
2. While it’s the Saints’ offense that normally receives most of the accolades, the team has recently been winning games with excellent defensive play. They have allowed an NFL-best 12.3 points per game over the past six weeks while holding all six opponents to 17 points or fewer. The New Orleans defense has also more forced turnovers (14) than the number of touchdowns it has allowed (nine) over the six-game stretch. While the Steelers were able to amass 158 rushing yards on Sunday against New England's 17th-ranked run defense, they will now be going up against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. Not only are the Saints the only team in the NFL that’s allowing under 80 rushing yards per game, but they have also held opposing rushers to an average of 3.7 yards per carry, which ranks second in the league behind only Houston (3.6).
3. As one of only three NFL teams (along with the Chiefs and Buccaneers) that’s averaging more than 300 passing yards per game, the Steelers will likely look to attack New Orleans through the air. The Saints, however, had little trouble outscoring pass-happy offenses, winning and covering all six games they’ve played this season against opponents that are averaging 260 or more passing yards per game. They’ve outscored their opponents by an average margin of more than 14 points per game over the six contests. And not only is New Orleans 18-3 against the spread (17-4 straight up) under Sean Payton when facing an opponent that’s scoring an average of at least 27 points per game, but the Saints have outscored the opposition by an average of 10 points in those 21 games.
Pick: New Orleans -5.5
Confidence Level: Very High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)