20* Steelers/49ers ESPN Monday ATS ANNIHILATOR on Pittsburgh +3
Pittsburgh vs. San Francisco,
12/19/2011 20:30 EDT,
Score: 3 - 20
Point Spread: +3/-130 Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers have more to play for tonight than the San Francisco 49ers. I believe they are the better team, and they will also be playing more hungry than San Francisco considering what's at stake. With losses by both Baltimore and Houston yesterday, Pittsburgh would be the new No. 1 seed in the AFC if they were to win tonight. That means a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With so much to play for, Big Ben has shown his true heart. He suffered a bad ankle sprain against Cleveland last Thursday, and it didn't appear he would return. But he came out after halftime and played the rest of the game, leading the Steelers to a 14-3 victory over Cleveland. He also posted his best QB rating of the year at 129.6. This guy just seems to take his game to the next level when he feels pain. He is probable tonight and will start for Pittsburgh. He has had 10 days of rest since playing last Thursday, which is huge.
The Steelers are going to be without OLB James Harrison, who has been suspended for this game after a head-to-head hit on Colt McCoy last week. Harrison has eight sacks despite missing a month with a fractured right orbital bone and dealing with persistent back issues. The Steelers defense has given up 19 total points in the last three games, and Pittsburgh managed to go 4-0 during his earlier absence.
While Harrison is a big loss for the Steelers, it's not near as big as the loss the 49ers have suffered the last few weeks. Patrick Willis, in my opinion the best linebacker in the league, is doubtful for this game with a hamstring injury. He missed the Arizona game in a 21-19 loss to the Cardinals last week, and his absence will be felt again tonight.
Pittsburgh is simply the better team, and the numbers clearly show that. The Steelers rank No. 1 in the NFL in total defense (276.1 yards/game) and 12th in total offense (371.6 yards/game). As you can see, they are outgaining their opponents by 95.5 yards/game on the year.
While the 49ers rank 4th in total defense (305.1 yards/game), they are just 25th in total offense (309.0 yards/game). That means they are only outgaining their opponents by 3.9 yards/game. This easily tells me that San Francisco is nowhere near as good as their 10-3 record would indicate. They have just been getting timely turnovers for much of the year, but that won't keep up.
If you settle for field goals against the Steelers, they make you pay. That’s bad news for San Francisco bettors. The 49ers rank last in the league in red zone offense (35.6 percent) and have scored just three touchdowns in their last 19 trips inside in the 20-yard line.
The Steelers are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games after scoring less than 15 points in their previous game. Pittsburgh is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following a loss against the spread. The Steelers are 14-5 in their last 19 games as an underdog of 3.0 or less. Bet Pittsburgh Monday.