Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5 SU, 5-5 ATS) vs. Indianapolis Colts (5-5 SU, 5-4-1 ATS)
Week 12 NFL
Date/Time: Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2016 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: PIT -8/IND +8
Over/Under Total: 48
The Pittsburgh Steelers come to Lucas Oil Stadium to face the Indianapolis Colts on Thanksgiving Day in what is a key AFC matchup. Both teams were fancied to do big things this season, especially the Steelers. But through ten games, there have been more bumpy passages for both teams than many forecasted. But both teams are showing signs of life. Pittsburgh broke a 4-game losing streak with a 24-9 win over the Browns on Sunday, with the road win evening the slate at 5-5. Indy, meanwhile, beat division rival Tennessee and are also at 5-5, back in business in the AFC South, though they will soldier on this week without Andrew Luck.
Both teams face a tough task with the short week. The Steelers have to come off the road after visiting Cleveland for the quick turnaround in Indy, as they are in a rough patch of 5 road games in 7 weeks. The win over Cleveland is perhaps not a salve for all the ills that have rendered the Steelers a .500 team. But the win was necessary before things got too out of hand for the Steelers. In an AFC North where every team has dealt with issues, they are actually knotted up in first place with Baltimore. So they can still make a run this season if and when they get their act together. For their only triumph since October 9 to be a victory over the winless Browns is pretty rough.
The Pittsburgh offense has not taken off as many suspected. Injuries have played a role, but so has inconsistent play from the line, the skill players, and even Ben Roethlisberger. On Sunday, he threw for only 167 yards with no scores. The best work on the day was done by Le'Veon Bell, who ran for 146 yards and a touchdown, while also catching 8 balls. But even Bell has been off at times this season. With injuries to their aerial package, it's basically Antonio Brown and whoever happens to step up on a given day. There has been good play from different young receivers like Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers, but their contributions are erratically-distributed. With injuries to Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey, the suspension of Martavis Bryant, and youngsters being slow to develop, we see an aerial attack that doesn't always fire.
Some life has been seen with Indy, as they slowly try to round into shape after a really ragged start to the season. They were able to come off the bye on Sunday with a big win over division rival Tennessee, completing the sweep against the Titans. It wasn't easy, as Indy had to hold on some after squandering a 21-0 lead. Early in the 4th, the Titans narrowed it to a 4-point margin, as the Colts held strong for the big win. It was their second win in a row and their fourth in six games.
The Indianapolis defense was erratic on Sunday, but kept Tennessee off the board other than a late-first half and third quarter spurt. They kept DeMarco Murray in relative check with 70 yards running. And a strong pass-rush that came up with 5 sacks was big in keeping a surging Titans offense from keeping the ball rolling in the final quarter with the game on the line. They are the 29th-ranked defense in the league. They have their share of issues, like being last in the league in passing defense. They're going to give up yards. But as we saw on Sunday, some big plays, and a dash of clutch play can take a bad defense like Indy's and make it a little better.
Andrew Luck (out) did some damage through the air for the Colts on Sunday, hitting TY Hilton for 97 yards on a touchdown. He hit Phillip Dorsett with a 50-yard throw. Frank Gore had 71 yards receiving, adding 50 more on the ground. RB Robert Turbin ran for a touchdown. Donte Moncrief is working his way back into the offense and caught a TD pass on Sunday. But with Luck missing this game after a concussion last week, the reigns will be turned over to Scott Tolzien. With more production from Gore, Hilton and Moncrief providing a 1-2 punch at receiver, and other tools like TE Jack Doyle, Dorsett, and others, Tolzien will have tools with which to work, though his work over the last few seasons have been minimal.
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Again, this is a critical game with a lot on the line. Both teams had to work just to get to this spot at 5-5 and this late in the season, backward steps could be disastrous. Taking a quick look at the AFC standings, it's going to be hard for either team to snag a wild card spot. Both squads are fortunate no one in their divisions is running away with it, as both enter this game tied for first place. But the margin is still small and their efforts should reflect that on Thanksgiving.
We have to look at these teams as they are, rather than our rosy projections of what we thought these teams would be. Sure, either team is capable of turning on that offensive juice at any time, especially Pittsburgh and not so much Indy this week without Luck. But we have not seen anything resembling the high-lying Pittsburgh offense since early October. The Colts actually look to be playing a little better, or at the very least getting more out of what they have. With the extra points being afforded the Colts with Luck out, I like them as the home dog this week.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Indianapolis Colts plus 8 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Pittsburgh vs. Indy Thanksgiving game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!