Thursday Night NFL Football brings us the Steelers at Titans this evening. The Steelers are 2-2, desperately trying to keep up in the AFC North race with Baltimore, 4-1, and Cincinnati, 3-2. The Titans, meanwhile, are just trying to keep their season from the dumpster fire. They’re 1-4 and have lost by more than two touchdowns in each of those defeats. The Steelers are favored by 6.5 points tonight. Pittsburgh plays so down to its competition these days, that I dont know about laying that kind of number of the road. But maybe there are some props that catches the eye, so lets take a look at the prop board:
Ben Roethlisberger, Over/Under 22 completions, 254.5 passing yards, 1.5 TDs……He’s had 22 completions in every game, but twice hit the number exactly. Still, thats 2-0-2 on tonight’s over this season. He went over that completion mark six times a year ago with three pushes, but otherwise has not been regularily putting up games of more than 22 completions in his career. But this is a much different Steeler team than he’s been leading for the better part of the last decade. This is a pass first team thats in the top-10 in the league in passing yards and only getting better. In his 4,077 passing yard season last year, he basically averaged 254.5 yards a game. This year, that figure is up to 281 yards. Will that come down now that Mendenhall is back running the football? Pitsburgh hasnt been able to rely on any tailback this season, so it’s all fallen onto their QB’s right arm.
Rashard Mendenhall, Over/Under 75.5 rushing yards…..Mendenhall was sorely needed in this lineup. He finally returned from last year’s ACL surgery a week ago against Phily, but he’s already almost the Steelers leading rusher. This despite only having 68 yards in that game. But he ran hard, broke out for a couple nice gainers and went for 5.2 yards per rush. That last stat is key when you consider Isaac Redman and Jonathon Dwyer tried carrying the load in Mendenhall’s absence and neither maintained a YPC above 3.0. He went over this total just three times a year ago and seven times in 2010, with an eighth instance in the postseason. Despite that, I like this play tonight. Pittsburgh desperately needs to find some offensive balance. And, the Titans are 28th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed with 144.2 a game. In five games so far this year, they’ve allowed the leading rusher of their opponents to go for 93.6 yards and over this total four times.
Mike Wallace, Over/Under 4.5 catches, 73.5 receiving yards……Wallace has gone over the figures twice in four games. He went for 5/74 and 8/123 against the Jets and Raiders, but only had a combined six catches for 43 yards in the other two games combined. He had six catches for 82 yards and a score against the Titans a year ago. It seems like a good matchup, and I dont think a star like Wallace puts up back to back supbar statistical games, especially in this Steelers attack. He’s only had five or more catches a dozen times in the previous two seasons, but hit this yardage mark 19 times during the same time frame.
Antonio Brown, Over/Under 5.5 catches, 75.5 receiving yards…….Brown leads the Steelers aerial show in catches, targets and yards. He has four touchdowns, 122 yards after the catch and is averaging 81.5 receiving yards a game. So far this year, 19 of his 25 grabs have either gone for a first down or touchdown. He also has five catches of at least 20 yards this season. He’s had three straight games of exactly seven catches. He’s gone over this yardage total in three of four games this year, with the under falling just short at 74 yards. He’s in his third season and we’ve come to expect bigtime production out of WRs entering that third year. Brown seems more than primed to have a career year. A season ago, he averaged 4.5 catches and 69.25 yards a game. Those figures are at 6.25 catches and 81.5 yards a game in 2012. I dont know if he’ll actually continue the 100-catch season pace the whole way through, but I have a hard time seeing the Titans putting the wraps on him.
Heath Miller, Over/Under 45.5 receiving yards……Miller has gone over this total in two of four games this year, making it a total of 22 games the last three plus years combined. Thats about 5-6 times a year. This is a high number for a tight end, especially on a team, that while he’s targeted a bunch, also spreads the ball around to a couple different big play receivers. His 42.5 receiving yards a game this year and his 40.05 yards a game over his last 20 has us thinking its Under or nothing on this one. Maybe there’s a 2.5 catches prop somewhere out there if you really want to take an Over with Miller, but I cant find one.
Emmanuel Sanders, Over/Under 2.5 receiving yards, 29,5 receiving yards…..The 2.5 catches figure looks suspicious. Sanders has had three or four catches in every game this year. Is he suddenly going to be shutout by one of the worst pass defenses in the league who undoubtedly will be paying a ton of attention to Brown and Wallace over him? He’s also gone over the yardage total in three of four games and is averaging 35.75 yards a game at the quarter pole of the 2012 campaign. Coming into the year, he’s only gone over tonight’s totals six times on the catches on 10 times on the yards. But the SMU product is entering the magical third year for WRs, so maybe the stat upgrades from the first four games of this year continues to hold up.
Matt Hasselback, Over/Under 21.5 completions, 222.5 passing yards……..Subbing in for injured Jake Locker, Hasselback did have 26 completions in the last outing against Minnesota. But he hasnt had more than 200 yards passing in either of his starts this year with Locker out. The Steelers are more than shaky against the pass if you can keep their front seven and blitzes from destroying you first. Any time they’re without either Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu, they have tons of breakdowns on the back line. Polamalu is out tonight. Unlike Michael Vick and Mark Sanchez, Hasselback is a more than capable passer to take advantage of the missing safety situation for the Steelers. I doubt the Titans will be able to run the ball much this evening, so dont be shocked if Hasselback attemps to mirror what Oakland and Carson Palmer did to this defense a few weeks back.
Chris Johnson, Over/Under 16.5 rushing attempts, 2.5 catches…..it says something when the prop makers have given up on you. Johnson’s season running the ball has been so poor that they dont want to even put a yardage total on the board, choosing instead to go with a total carry prop. Johnson has only averaged 42 rushing yards a game this year, and only once has he had more than 24 yards this year. Sure, that was a 141-yard effort in a blowout loss to Texas, but the rest of his year has been so below average that I have to assume the books arent putting a yardage total out there because it would get too much Under action or it would be set so low that it wouldnt get any action at all. He’s only averaged 61 yards a game in three meetings with the Steelers, so his numbers shouldnt be on the uptick after this one. On the carry number, only that effort against Houston went over 16 totes a game. As for the 2.5 catches, he’s had either one or two catches in four straight after getting six in Week One. A year ago, he had over 2.5 grabs in 12 games. Interesting. With the Titans leaning on their backup, maybe quick checkdowns to Johnson are on the menu tonight.
Nate Washington, Over/Under 3 catches, 45.5 receiving yards…….On the catch total, Washington would have gone over once, under twice and pushed twice this year. In his career high, 72-catch season a year ago, he had more than three catches 11 times and exactly three catches twice. You would have lost on the Over less than a quarter of the time a year ago. He wasnt as prolific on the yardage total with just 10 instances over tonight’s number a year ago. But in five games in 2012, he’s gone over 45.5 yards three times and is averaging 54.8 receiving yards a game.
Jared Cook, Over/Under 3.5 catches…..Cook has hit this over three times this year wih two games of five catches and one with four. In the games this went under the total, he had three grabs. He had 11 games over the previous two seasons with more than 3. catches, including the final three games of 2011, meaning Cook has actually gone over this total in six of his last eight games.
Kendall Wright, Over/Under 4.5 catches, 45.5 receiving yards….the rookie from Baylor has become the security blanket of this passing offense. He leads the team in catches with 27 and targets with 44, nearly doubling up his closest competitor on the team in that latter category. He’s averging just 7.8 yards per catch but 14, more than half, his grabs have moved the chains for a first down. He’s also caught two scores. In an offense thats been directed by a young pup in Jake Locker whose still getting used to the NFL or now the backup Hasselback with Locker out with injury, its been Wright whose helped it least mainatin possessions. I dont know if you can trust him on yards, but based on the catches and targets he’s had already this year, he should be able to get five catches tonight. He’s done that in three of five games this year.
Kenny Britt, Over/Under 2.5 catches……..Britt caught six passes in the Titans only win against the Lions. But he’s only caught three balls combined the rest of the way while also missing a game with an ankle injury. He played more than two dozen snaps last week against Minnesota, so health should not be an issue tonight. When he can get on the field, he’s usually a good bet for three or more catches, but its hard to say how having the backup QB playing combined with Wright’s emergence as a constant target will impact that. I’m guessing the wrong way.