Broncos vs. Steelers Odds
The Broncos will try to record their first win of 2020 after losing their opener to the Titans, who marched almost 90 yards to kick a go-ahead field goal in the final seconds this past Monday night.
Bookmakers opened the Steelers as 5.5-point favorites and the over/under at 43, but Pittsburgh has since been bet up to as high as -7.5 with the total dropping to 40.5. Let’s take a closer look at what the line move might suggest about how these teams might attack one another and, more importantly, what the impact will be to Drew Lock’s passing yards prop.
The Steelers are dealing with significant injuries that could dictate their overall strategy for this game.
Running back James Conner was forced out of last week’s game with an ankle injury, and if that wasn’t bad enough, the Steelers then lost right guard Stefen Wisniewski (pectoral injury) and right tackle Zach Banner (knee injury) on the exact same drive. Banner’s injury is the more serious of the two as he was diagnosed with an ACL tear and is done for the season, although Wisniewski’s injury landed him on Injured Reserve.
Conner’s injury was revealed to be an ankle sprain, so he’s at least expected to be ready to go on Sunday.
As for the game, let me state outright that I don’t necessarily agree with the line move to the under in this matchup.
Denver’s biggest weakness on defense will be the absence of All-Pro cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder), who was placed on Injured Reserve this week. According to Pro Football Focus, Bouye was targeted 80 times last season and allowed only 52 catches, which placed him 16th in the league. Behind Bouye on the depth chart are Davontae Harris and Duke Dawson Jr., who have a combined nine starts under their belt compared to 63 for Bouye.
That secondary should be the softest part of their defense, and with the Broncos holding the Titans to just 3.8 yards per carry last week, I fully expect the Steelers to attack through the air, thus creating the possibility for a higher-scoring game than the current total suggests.
The Broncos’ injury news isn’t much better than the Steelers, but at least Denver didn’t lose any players for the season in the opener.
Nonetheless, the Broncos will be without Bouye and RB Phillip Lindsay (turf toe), but they could get back wide receivers Courtland Sutton and K.J. Hamler. Sutton’s possible return along with Bouye’s injury highlight both a strength and weakness for the Broncos, and it should dictate their offensive game plan.
Now let’s shift our focus to the current spread, which is as high as 7.5 at some sportsbooks.
The difference of a touchdown in the NFL is pretty significant considering the winning team often has to travel about 80 yards to put the ball in the end zone. If we assume that a 7.5-point handicap is correct, then based on that gap, the Steelers could be ahead for much of the game, which means that the Broncos would be playing catch up.
This matchup is all about tempo.
If Pittsburgh looks to attack Denver’s depleted secondary, it will put pressure on the Broncos to have to score to keep pace. And if the Broncos are playing from behind, Lock should be able to pick up some yards down the field, particularly late in the game if the Steelers are in a prevent defensive formation.
Heck, we saw this exact scenario play out last week when the Steelers faced Daniel Jones and the Giants — Jones had 279 yards passing along with two touchdowns and probably could have had even more if not for some errant passes and a costly red-zone turnover.
And Jones did that without his No. 1 WR Golden Tate, who missed the game due to injury.
Lock might be even more fortunate as Sutton was a limited participant for each session of practice for the Broncos this week. With his gameday status listed as questionable and not doubtful, I’ll take a chance that he’s on the field Sunday.
Lock and Co. will have to attack Pittsburgh through the air.
The Steelers play inside-out, in that they always have good interior line play along with quality linebackers who can fill gaps and stop the run. Last week, they held New York to just 29 yards and 1.45 yards per carry. And a season ago, they held opponents to just 3.8 yards per carry, third-best in the NFL.
I don’t think the Broncos want that smoke.
But if Denver can add Sutton to an already talented group alongside WR Jerry Jeudy and TE Noah Fant, I don’t see any reason why Lock can’t have a good day passing the ball. FanDuel has his passing yards prop set at 222.5, and I think he can do even better than that — I’d even bet this number up to 225.
I’ll risk a half-unit of my bankroll that Lock has a big day with his arm.
PICK: Drew Lock Over 222.5 Passing Yards (-110)