Peyton Manning showed them what for in week one, but then the Steelers came back in week two against the Jets. Today Pittsburgh takes on old nemesis Oakland. Do the Raiders stand a chance against Big Ben and co? Where do we place our NFL picks on this one?
It’s Tuesday night as I write
this, just before 10 p.m. Eastern, and my computer is lighting up like a forest
fire. I’m looking at the NFL odds for the Week 3 matchup between the Steelers
and the Raiders, with the Raiders getting four points at home after going 0-2
SU and ATS to start the season.
But wait. Two red boxes are
suddenly staring me in the face: The Raiders have just moved to +4.5 (–108) at
Pinnacle and +4.5 (–110) at Matchbook. After a few tense moments, the boxes
turn from red to orange, then yellow, then back to white. Calm has been
restored on my laptop.
This is why we always
recommend you start shopping early in the week for your football betting needs.
About half the books on our NFL odds page still show the Raiders at +4, but
again, that’s on Tuesday night. That may not be the case by the time you read
this. Not with the Steelers getting 71 percent support on the early consensus
Black Hole Sun
Who would feel good adding the Raiders to any of their NFL picks at this point? They imploded at home in Week 1, muffing three punts
in a 21-15 loss to the San Diego Chargers. Then they went to Miami and rushed
for 23 yards in a 35-13 laugher against the mighty Dolphins. Oakland was the
favorite in both cases at –1.
Well, maybe things aren’t so
bad. The punting situation improved in Week 2 after long snapper Jon Condo
(concussion) returned to action. And the Raiders were competitive in Miami
until the second half, when they seemed to wilt in the 90-degree heat. Oakland
was playing on short rest after losing to the Chargers on Monday Night Football. Sharp bettors cleaned up by playing the old
“fade teams flying cross-country to play in unusually hot/cold weather” gambit.
Sharps also jumped on the
chance to take the Steelers in Week 2 after a 31-19 loss to the Denver Broncos
(–2.5 at home). I’ve already discussed this in my absolutely spot-on analysis
of Monday night’s Broncos-Falcons matchup – you’re welcome, by the way. But in
case you missed it, Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark missed the Denver game because
he can’t play at high altitudes given his blood condition.
The Steelers were already
without LB James Harrison, so getting Clark back in the fold was imperative for
Week 2. And he delivered, leading the team with eight tackles in a 27-10
victory over the New York Jets (+4.5) in front of some very happy fans at Heinz
That performance was almost
enough to make you forget about strong safety and shampoo pitchman Troy
Polamalu. He’s been out of commission with a calf injury, but Coach Mike Tomlin
says both Polamalu and Harrison are both “day-to-day” and could return for Week
3. That seems unlikely, though, with Pittsburgh getting the bye in Week 4 and safety
Ryan Mundy playing so well in Polamalu’s place.
I doubt Pittsburgh’s defense
will be challenged by Carson Palmer and the Raiders on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET,
CBS). Palmer is trying his best to operate within a West Coast offense, but
he’s 32, and his arm has never been the same since missing most of 2008 with a
partially torn elbow.
Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger
is off to one of his better seasons under new offensive co-ordinator Todd
Haley. Big Ben connected with 10 different receivers against the Jets, who were
last year’s No. 1-ranked defense in efficiency as per Football Outsiders. How
are the Raiders (No. 27) supposed to do any better? We’re only looking at highs
of 70 degrees in Oakland next Sunday, in case you were wondering.
NFL Pick: Steelers –4