Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Buffalo Bills (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS)
Week 14 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: New Era Field, Buffalo, New York
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: PIT -2/BUF +2
Over/Under Total: 47
The Pittsburgh Steelers come to New Era Field on Sunday to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in key AFC action. The Steelers have won three in a row, resurrecting their season and keeping pace with the Ravens in a first-place tie atop the AFC North. A 24-14 win over a hot Giants team on Sunday was a credible win that should put some wind in their sails. The Bills had won two in a row, but fell on the road to the streaking Raiders on Sunday, 38-24. It's a critical game for both teams. Pittsburgh might need to win this division, while Buffalo needs to get on a roll to solidify their wild-card hopes, which took a hit on Sunday.
Again, the win over the Giants was a legit triumph for a Steelers team that almost saw their season go completely sideways with 4 straight losses. Three straight wins have righted the ship, though wins over the Browns and an Andrew Luck-less Colts failed to inspire. The Giants had won 6 straight games, so beating them in a game they were fully in control of is a positive development. The Steelers offense was able to have some moments of success against an improved New York "D" and the Steelers defense held the potentially high-flying Giants' offense to 14 points, seven of them on a late inconsequential touchdown with 26 seconds remaining.
On Sunday, Ben Roethlisberger was 24-for-36 for 289 yards with two touchdowns and a pick. After getting his feet wet for three games after missing most of the season, tight end Ladarius Green really sprung to life with 110 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Brown caught a TD pass. And as usual, the receiving crew other than Brown failed to really deliver. It's been a group hit hard by injuries and uneven play. On the ground and through the air, Le'Veon Bell really delivered on Sunday with a workmanlike 118 yards, along with 64 yards on 6 receptions. Bell has gone over 100 yards rushing in three straight games. Still, the Pittsburgh offense has not been able to recapture the explosive form they showed last season and early this year at times. Perhaps too many people assumed it was all about Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bell when it had a lot to do with the supporting cast—a group that is banged-up and underperforming.
If looking to pin the success of the Steelers in the last several weeks on any one thing, the defense is where to look. They've held opponents to 30 combined points in their last three games. On Sunday, they made some big plays, with Lawrence Timmons and Sean Davis picking off Eli Manning. James Harrison and Ricardo Matthews registered sacks. Having Ryan Shazier back in there has really paid off, with Mike Mitchell making plays all over the place. Opposing offenses are having a ton of trouble running the ball against this bunch. Buffalo depends a lot on the run and are more formidable in that area than the teams Pittsburgh has been facing. But they should have their work cut out against an attacking Steelers' defense that has rounded into shape in recent weeks.
Buffalo gave it a good go on Sunday and even had a 15-point lead in the 3rd quarter. But as has been the case so many times this season, the Raiders were able to shine late and get the win by a 38-24 score that really doesn't do justice to the Bills' efforts on Sunday. After barely coughing up the ball this season, two Buffalo turnovers were key. Still, they hung right in there for 3 quarters, having great success running the ball with LeSean McCoy running for 130 yards, while Mike Gillislee added 49 yards and two rushing touchdowns. QB Tyrod Taylor added a TD on the ground with some useful runs, as well. Taylor also connected well with McCoy through the air and has more threats with Sammy Watkins now firmly back in the mix.
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The Bills didn't really get the performance they wanted from their "D" on Sunday, taking into account the fact that they were on the road against a hot team in the now 10-2 Raiders. They held them to under 400 yards of total offense and had Derek Carr out-of-sync at times. The Raiders only managed 3 field goals until they were well into the third quarter. But it's what happened late that was more distressing. It's not like the Raiders haven't done that a bunch of times this season. But with a lot riding on the win and with a lead, both sides of the ball failed to respond. Still, the Buffalo "D" can be tough on opposing quarterbacks, both with a stout and playmaking secondary and a good pass-rush, though an inconsistent one that didn't make much of an impact on Sunday.
Buffalo has been better at home and after 3 of their last 4 being on the road, they should be comfortable at home in the cold. Still, their recent wins are against the more compromised squads—teams like the Rams, 49ers, Bengals, and Jaguars. With the Steelers, they're facing a winning team on the rise. The sometimes-pedestrian Bills' offense will be playing a peaking defense, as the Steelers possess the more-diverse offense. Still, there can be a certain stoutness at home for Buffalo late in the season and I see a tight game where picking a winner is tough. In cases like that, taking the home team and the points seems like the wise move.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Buffalo Bills plus 2 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Steelers vs. Bills game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!