Sunday, December 06, 2009

Raiders: What are the Chances...?

The Steelers are 14-point favorites against the Raiders, which sounds about right. Oakland’s run-oriented offense doesn’t match up well against Pittsburgh’s defense, and Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski has been dreadful in his two previous starts (with other teams) at Heinz Field. In 2006 (Tampa Bay) and 2008 (Cleveland), he combined to throw five interceptions and no touchdowns for a passer rating of 20.2. In last year’s Browns game, he completed five of 16 passes for 18 yards, three interceptions and a 1.0 passer rating.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh should be able to run the ball on the Raiders, who rank 31st in the NFL against the run, allowing an average of 161.1 yards per game. Of course, that assumes that offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is smart enough to keep the ball on the ground this week, and keep recently-concussed QB Ben Roethlisberger out of harm’s way.

But Steelers fans shouldn’t assume that a victory is automatic. In 2006 the Steelers faced an even more woeful Raiders team in Oakland under similar circumstances—that is, Roethlisberger returning to the lineup after a concussion. Big Ben had the worst game of his career, throwing four interceptions (including one returned for a touchdown) in a 20-13 loss.

Still, I’m picking the Steelers to win today – 85 percent chance. "What are the Chances...?" is 7-4 this season and 46-17 all-time.



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