If you’re still on the fence about which team to bet Monday we enlist the help of expert NFL team bloggers, who give three reasons why their side will cover the spread.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins (+2.5, 50)
Expert NFL bloggers Jeff Hartman of Pittsburgh blog Behind the Steel Curtain and Brent Carothers of Washington blog Burgundy Blog strap on the pads and debate which team will not only win, but cover the spread Monday night.
WHY THE STEELERS WILL COVER
Jeff Hartman is the editor of Behind the Steel Curtain. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @btsteelcurtain.
The Steelers Offense
Yes, they will be without Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell and possibly Markus Wheaton, but even those absences won’t spell doom for the Ben Roethlisberger led unit. Antonio Brown is the best in the business, and he and Roethlisberger’s connection is second-to-none. On top of that ridiculous QB/WR duo is a RB in DeAngelo Williams who certainly is more than capable at toting the football with success.
The Steelers defense might not be the dominating units from the mid-2000s, but they are an opportunistic defense. They created turnovers in 2015, and picked up where they left off in the 2016 preseason. Kirk Cousins has a tendency to be erratic at times, and look for the Steelers to take advantage of those mistakes. Any extra possessions given to the Steelers offense certainly will be trouble for Washington.
Pressure the QB
The Steelers defense has it’s deficiencies, but they also put a tremendous amount of pressure on the QB. Last year the team ranked 3rd in sacks, with 48, and they all came from a variety of places. Cameron Heyward led the team with 7 sacks, which gives you an idea just how well-rounded the pass rush is under Keith Butler. Pittsburgh will get pressure in a variety of ways, and that could spell disaster for Washington, and a victory for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
WHY THE REDSKINS WILL COVER
Brent Carothers is the founder of Burgundy Blog. You can follow them on Twitter @BurgundyBlog and listen to the Burgundy Blogcast found on iTunes, Soundcloud, and Stitcher.
Something in the Air
“Steelers” and “defense” have been synonymous since the ‘70s, and Pittsburgh’s current front, led by Cameron Hayward, looks stout as ever. Their secondary and overall pass defense, however, may be vulnerable—and the Redskins boast just the right crew of catchers to take advantage.
DeSean Jackson, fully healthy and now in a contract year, has been open all summer. Pierre Garçon and Jamison Crowder add toughness on the other side, and quickness in the slot. Can William Gay and his inexperienced, unproven colleagues at corner keep up? I have my doubts. And even the elite athleticism of Ryan Shazier will likely be futile against the razor-sharp route-running of Jordan “Easy Button” Reed.
Kirk Cousins may or may not ever become a true “franchise” quarterback, but with weapons aplenty and match-ups to exploit, he’ll probably look like one on Monday night.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskins have struggled mightily in recent years to field a defensive backfield capable of stopping or even slowing a top-notch tandem like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. In 2016, however, this secondary won’t be tossed around.
Josh Norman arrived from Carolina with a boulder on his shoulder. The zone-coverage specialist and all-around menace has injected physicality and swagger into a previously nondescript unit. Furthermore, rising star Bashaud Breeland appears very ready to capitalize on the inevitable bump in targets to the opposite boundary. Considering also that the still-speedy DeAngelo Hall is no longer a newbie at safety, and that GM Scot McCloughan’s player-acquisition acumen has accounted for no less than 11 rosterable DBs, I rather like the Redskins’ chances of bothering Big Ben and stymying Pittsburgh’s vaunted aerial attack.
Coming of Age
Jay Gruden has improved significantly since his bumbling debut as a head coach in 2014, when the Redskins managed only four victories as he struggled (and failed) to manage Robert Griffin III. Now he has stability at the all-important QB position, a division title on his record, and the full confidence of every man in the locker room, his team having reeled off four straight wins to finish the 2015 regular season. It’s time to take John’s little bro seriously.
Consider Gruden’s maturation as a leader, plus Sean McVay’s heady contributions to what has become a devastatingly well-designed offense, and perhaps most importantly the credibility lent by McCloughan to a renewed culture of competitiveness…and the Redskins just may have finally found a recipe for sustainable success.
Monday Night Football was once, and for too long, a painful showcase for Redskins ineptitude. In 2016, Jay Gruden’s group appears fully ready for primetime.
Los Angeles Rams at San Fransisco 49ers (+2.5, 42)
The second primetime matchup will be more of a slaughter than a debate, as Expert NFL blogger Ryan Sakamoto of San Francisco blog Niner Fans takes on Covers’ associate Editor Andrew Caley who steps up for the Rams side. Despite the clear mismatch, the two strap on the pads to debate not just who wins, but which team will cover the spread in the contest.
Ryan Sakamato is the founder of San Francisco 49ers blog Niner Fans. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter @SakamatoRyan, and Instagram.
49ers Offensive Line
Despite being a pass-happy league in today’s NFL, you still need to go back to basics and run the football. To be quite honest, the 49ers were downright awful last year in this category having played musical chairs along the team’s offensive line. Fast forward to present day and a clear weakness last year has turned into a strength.
The free-agent addition of underrated zone-blocking scheme OG Zane Beadles, will provide the rock needed at the position. Something that hasn’t been seen since LG Mike Iupati bolted for the division-rival Arizona Cardinals, Beadles will provide stability, consistency, and reliability from the weak-side. Then there’s the wild-card in 2010 first-round pick (No. 11) T/G Anthony Davis.
A mauler in the run game with the quick feet to match, Davis should have no problem moving Rams defensive tackles off their spot (aside from DT Aaron Donald). He is very physical at the POA (point of attack) and his mean-streak demeanor should pave the way for RB Carlos Hyde to hit both the inside-zone and outside-zones with ease. Two players who will be heavily counted on in the team’s run-game, look for Hyde to have an encore type performance like he did against the Minnesota Vikings, as I expect him to have a stat line around 24 carries for 90+ rushing yards and 1 TD.
49ers RB Carlos Hyde
While I fully expect this game to be a defensive struggle, and the 49ers D will need to do their part in holding the Rams to under 20 points in order to come out victorious, the key to victory is running behind their No. 1 cow-bell. Hyde, has the potential for breakout season if he cam remain healthy. He’s a violent north-south runner between the tackles with the power to hit the second-level and take it to the house. Last year, Hyde did not have the best offensive line– this year is a different story, different scheme, and different coaching style.
Look for Hyde to get the lion share of the reps, as T Joe Staley and T Trent Brown set the edge while the combo of Kilgore-Beadles-Davis impose their will down in the trenches. Whether that’s attacking the Rams defensive tackles with reach blocks or spreading the defense wide with 11 personnel, look for Kelly to create favorable match-ups in this game of chess, as I expect Hyde to have a stat line around 24 carries for 90+ rushing yards, and at least 1 touchdown.
WHY THE RAMS WILL COVER
All I Really Want is Gurley’s
Rams running back Todd Gurley lived up to the hype in his rookie season. The Georgia product rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns on just 229 rushes (4.8 yards per attempt), despite missing the first three games of the season while he recovered from a knee injury he suffered in college. Gurley enters the season as one of the few true bell cow running backs in the NFL and should get plenty of touches as he gets to go up against a 49ers defense the allowed the fourth most rushing yards in the league last year.
The Rams feature one of the most fearsome front sevens in the NFL and they are led by a beast of a defensive tackle in Aaron Donald. The third-year man out of Pittsburgh has already been to two Pro Bowls and named an All-Pro. Donald is as disruptive a force at defensive tackle as there is in the NFL after recording 69 tackles, 11 sacks, a pass defended, and a fumble recovery in 2015 and goes up against an offensive line that allowed the second most sacks last season.
A New Era
After what has seemed like endless 7-9 seasons under head coach Jeff Fisher, maybe the move to Los Angeles is just what this team needs to get reinvigorated. While it won’t be as electric as their home opener next week against Seattle, the kind of new fan base and eventually a new stadium should have this young team pumped up. The NFL is just better with a team in L.A.
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