Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins (+2.5, 50)
Following their surprise run to the NFC East title in 2015, expectations are heightened for the Washington Redskins as they prepare to host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night in the season opener for both teams. Washington is looking to build upon its closing run a year ago, when it finished the regular season with four consecutive victories.
“We have a great opportunity to go be effective and play well and that’s exciting and something for our fans to be excited about,” Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “But, we’ve got to go out and prove it.” Washington made a bold move to bolster its defense by signing Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, setting up a marquee matchup with Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Pittsburgh will be without a pair of key weapons as running back Le’Veon Bell is serving a three-game suspension and wide receiver Martavis Bryant is out for the year for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. The offense should still be potent behind the leadership of two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but there are concerns over a defense that ranked 30th against the pass last season.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: The Pittsburgh Steelers opened as three-point favorites back in April for this Monday night matchup with Washington. The point spread has stayed relatively steady throughout the summer with only a slight bump up to 3.5 back in mid-August. During the week leading up to the game, some money came back on Washington and the line was dropped down to 2.5.
The total opened at 51 in April but has come down slightly over the last few months and currently sits at 50. Check out the complete line history here.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Pittsburgh (-3) – Washington (-1) + home field (-3) = Washington -1
KEY INJURIES (for full injury report visit matchup page):
Pittsburgh – DE C. Heyward (Probable Monday, ankle), WR M. Wheaton (Out Monday, shoulder), RB L. Bell (Out Monday, suspension), CB S. Golson (Out Monday, foot), WR M. Bryant (Out Monday, suspension) QB B. Gradkowski (Out Monday, hamstring).
Washington – WR J. Doctson (Probable Monday, achilles), RB M. Jones (Probable Monday, shoulder), RB C. Thompson (Questionable Monday, shoulder), LB R. Kerrigan (Questionable Monday, groin), LB J. Galette (Out For Season, achilles).
WEATHER REPORT: The forecast for Monday evening in D.C. is calling for clear skies and perfect September football conditions. Temperatures will be in the upper-70’s with humidity at around 50 percent.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (2015: 10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS, 6-10 O/U): Once renowned for its Steel Curtain defense, Pittsburgh has evolved into an offensive juggernaut, with Roethlisberger leading the league with an average of 328.2 yards per game last season and Brown hauling in a mind-boggling 375 receptions and 31 touchdown catches in the past three years. “It starts and it ends with him,” Norman said of Brown. “That’s going to be a tall task to take on.” DeAngelo Williams was more than a capable replacement last season while subbing for a suspended and injured Bell, rushing for 11 TDs and 907 yards. Defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Cam Heyward and linebacker Ryan Shazier are top talents but the secondary remains suspect after yielding an average of 271.9 yards in 2015.
ABOUT THE REDSKINS (2015: 9-7 SU, 9-7 ATS, 9-7 O/U): One knock against Washington last season, aside from being the only team to finish above .500 in its division, was not beating one opponent with a winning record. Nonetheless, Cousins thrived in his first full season as the starter, becoming the first quarterback in franchise history to throw for at least 4,000 yards (4,166) and 25 touchdowns (29), and has one of the league’s top tight ends in Jordan Reed, who enjoyed a breakout season with 87 receptions and 11 scores. There are questions about a ground game headed by Matt Jones, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing much of the preseason with a shoulder injury, and a defense that ranked 28th last year despite 9.5 sacks from linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
* Steelers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in September.
* Redskins are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
* Under is 4-0 in Steelers last 4 road games.
* Over is 5-0 in Redskins last 5 games overall.
* Under is 5-0 in the last 5 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is supporting the road favorite Steelers at a rate of 66 percent and the Under is picking up slightly more totals wagers on Covers with 52 percent.
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (+2.5, 42.5)
Chip Kelly gets a second chance to find out if his revved-up offense can translate to the NFL when he guides the San Francisco 49ers into their season opener against the visiting Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. Kelly made a splashy entrance into the league with a pair of 10-win campaigns in Philadelphia but was released with one game left last season amid growing player discontent.
“I’m sure Chip’s heard the rumors,” 49ers veteran linebacker NaVorro Bowman told reporters, “and I’m sure he’s made a few changes so he doesn’t have the same comments at the end of this year.” Ironically, one of Kelly’s first big decisions was choosing a starting quarterback, but backup Colin Kaepernick has garnered much of the headlines following his decision not to stand for the national anthem, setting off a wave of discourse nationally. The Rams hardly have had a quiet offseason of their own, relocating to Los Angeles after a 21-year run in St. Louis. The franchise then swung for the fences by sending a boatload of draft picks to Tennessee for the No. 1 pick overall — used to select Jared Goff, who begins the season as the third-string quarterback.
TV: 10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: The Los Angeles Rams opened Week 1 betting back in April as 2.5-point road favorites for their matchup against the 49ers. That 2.5 points has survived free agency, the draft, the preseason, and some surprising quarterback announcements and is currently holding steady.
The total hit the betting board at 46.5 and was gradually bet down all summer to it’s current number of 42. Check out the complete line history here.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Los Angeles (+3) – San Francisco (+5.5) + home field (-3) = San Francisco -0.5
KEY INJURIES (for full injury report visit matchup page):
Rams – CB E. Gaines (Questionable Monday, quadricep), LB M. Barron (Questionable Monday, undisclosed), CB T. Johnson (Questionable Monday, concussion), WR P. Cooper (Out Monday, shoulder).
49ers – DL G. Dorsey (Probable Monday, knee), RB C. Hyde (Probable Monday, concussion), DL A. Armstead (Questionable Monday, shoulder), RB S. Draughn (Questionable Monday, back), LB N. Bellore (Out Monday, knee), WR E. Rogers (Out For Season, knee).
WEATHER REPORT: Much like the early game Monday night, perfect football conditions are being forecast in the Bay Area with clear skies and temperatures in the low 70’s at kickoff. Wind will not be a factor and humidity levels will be at around 75 percent.
ABOUT THE RAMS (2015: 7-9 SU, 7-8-1 ATS, 4-12 O/U): Los Angeles has an emerging superstar in second-year running back Todd Gurley, who introduced himself to the NFL by rushing for at least 125 yards in each of his first four starts. A non-existent passing game allowed defenses to focus on Gurley as his rookie season progressed, leading to coach Jeff Fisher’s decision to promote Case Keenum, who won three of his last four starts. There’s still a dearth of talent at wide receiver for Los Angeles, which likes to line up former first-round pick Tavon Austin in the backfield with Gurley rather than stretch defenses with the deep ball. Tackle Aaron Donald is an unstoppable force on defense for the Rams, who must replace defensive end Chris Long and linebacker James Laurinaitis.
ABOUT THE 49ERS (2015: 5-11 SU, 7-9 ATS, 7-9 O/U): Blaine Gabbert started to resurrect his career after he was elevated to starter midway through last season and won the quarterback job in the preseason while Kaepernick was slow to recover from multiple surgeries. “He’s a good fit for what we want to get accomplished, and I have a lot of confidence in what he can do for us offensively,” Kelly said of Gabbert, who threw for 354 yards in a 19-16 win over the Rams to finish 3-5 last season. Like the Rams, San Francisco will have to cobble together a group of wide receivers, with Torrey Smith the de facto No. 1 after grabbing only 33 receptions in his first season with the 49ers. San Francisco held opponents to 20 points or fewer in seven of eight home games.
* Rams are 3-12 ATS in their last 15 games in Week 1.
* 49ers are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games in Week 1.
* Under is 6-1 in Rams last 7 games overall.
* Under is 8-2 in 49ers last 10 vs. NFC West.
* Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings in San Francisco.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is supporting the road favorite Rams at a rate of 65 percent and the Under is picking up the majority of the totals wagers on Covers with 68 percent.
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