Matt Hasselbeck faces a tough challenge in trying to remain unbeaten as a starter when he leads the resurgent Indianapolis Colts into a prime-time matchup at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. The Colts have won three in a row following a three-game skid to move into a tie with the Houston Texans atop the AFC South.
The 40-year-old Hasselbeck has been a savior while subbing for an injured Andrew Luck, improving to 4-0 after guiding Indianapolis to a 25-12 win over Tampa Bay last week. “Obviously, at his age, being 4-0 as a backup quarterback it’s great for us,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We’re very, very fortunate and I just hope he keeps it going.” The Steelers got a scare of their own at quarterback when Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of last weekend’s loss at Seattle with a concussion, but he received medical clearance this week. Pittsburgh is among four AFC teams tied with 6-5 records battling for the final two postseason slots.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC.
LINE HISTORY: The Steelers opened favored by a converted touchdown and have been bet up to -7.5. The total has been bet up a point-and-a-half since opening at 47.5 and currently sits at 49.
Colts – CB – V. Davis (probable Sunday, hamstring), LB E. Walden (probable Sunday, heel), S M. Adams (probable Sunday, ankle), C K. Jolmes (questionable Sunday, shin), WR P. Dorsett (out Sunday, ankle), T A. Castonzo (out Sunday, knee), G H. Thornton (out Sunday, elbow), LB J. Freeman (out Sunday, hamstring), QB A. Luck (Late December, kidney).
Steelers – LB R. Shazier (probable Sunday, head), S M. Mitchell (probable Sunday, knee), WR M. Bryant (probable Sunday, hip), TE M. Spaeth (probable Sunday, knee), S W. Allen (probable Sunday, ankle), LB J. Harrison (probable Sunday, knee), QB B. Roethlisberger (probable Sunday, concussion), TE H. Miller (questionable Sunday, ribs), LB S. Spence (out Sunday, hamstring).
WEATHER REPORT: It should be a beautiful night for football in Pittsburgh. The forecast is calling for clear skies with temperatures in the low 40’s. There will be a very slight breeze blowing towards the north corner of the northwestern end zone.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Colts (-0.5) – Steelers (-3) + home field (-3) = Steelers -5.5
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “Mike Tomlin?’s pass defense has been positively eviscerated in each of the last three weeks, unable to stop Russell Wilson, Derek Carr or Johnny Manziel (career best 372 passing yards). Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck continues to win games, now 4-0 as the Colts starter this year. But Indy continues to lose key pieces to injury, with RB Ahmad Bradshaw the latest to go on IR.” – Covers Expert Teddy Covers.
ABOUT THE COLTS (6-5, 6-5 ATS, 5-6 O/U): Hasselbeck capped a 315-yard performance by tossing a pair of second-half touchdown passes to T.Y. Hilton as Indianapolis rallied to remain in contention for the division title. Donte Moncrief snagged eight catches for 114 yards to help the Colts overcome a dreadful running game – Frank Gore managed only 24 yards on 19 carries while backup Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season with a wrist injury. Indianapolis is among the league leaders with 14 interceptions but it also ranks 27th overall with an average of 272.8 passing yards allowed.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (6-5, 6-4-1 ATS, 3-8 O/U): Pittsburgh’s pass defense is even worse than that of the Colts, surrendering 283.6 yards per game, and it was one of decisive factors a week ago in allowing three fourth-quarter scoring passes to Seattle. That negated a huge performance by Roethlisberger, who threw for a season-high 456 yards but also was intercepted twice for the Steelers, who are playing the first of three straight games against division leaders. While Markus Wheaton had nine catches for 201 yards and a TD last week, Antonio Brown has 33 receptions in the last three games.
* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings in Pittsburgh.
* Underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
* Over is 4-1 in the Colts last five games versus the AFC.
* Steelers are 7-0 ATS in their last seven games in December.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is giving the slight edge to the Colts in this AFC matchup, with 55 percent of wagers on Indianapolis. As for the totals markets 56 percent of wagers are on the over.