Let's have a great Monday night my people! I'll be brutally honest with you, whenever you see the over/under for a NFL football game set at 39 points it may be a LONG watch for everyone regardless who you are rooting for. Both Chicago and Pittsburgh have been notoriously known for their incredibly tough defenses, and this matchup is no different. Can Justin Fields pull off his biggest win of his young career tonight? Or will Mike Tomlin and his squad leave Heinz Stadium with a win and extend their winning streak to four games?
Week 9 Monday Night Football, with odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook:
Chicago at Pittsburgh
Line: Pittsburgh (-6.5)
Chicago's Struggles: Let's start with the play Justin Fields has displayed to start his young career since taking over as the starter. He simply hasn't been as good as advertised, and that's not a knock on him. His head coach and general manager have been rumored to be fired for what feels like 10 years at this point, his star running back David Montgomery has been on the IR, and Chicago's skill position players aren't anything to brag about. What Fields has been able to do effectively is run the ball. Last week he rushed for over 100 yards. What I worry about is his consistency as a thrower as he is yet to pass for more than 220 yards in an NFL game. In addition, he is ranked last or dead last in the NFL in interception & touchdown rate, completion percentage, yard per attempt, QBR, sack rate, and passer rating amongst starting quarterbacks. I don't consider myself to be an analytics guy, but that is ... uhhhh ... not good to say the least.
On the other side of the ball, Chicago been fine on defense, but they haven't played up to the standard they know they're capable of. And this game won't be much easier with their star OLB Khalil Mack sidelined. To their credit, Chicago has gotten solid secondary play so far this season, so if the run defense can elevate their play without Khalil Mack that will be pivotal especially against a surging Najee Harris.
Who Exactly Are the Steelers: After Week 4 Pittsburgh looked like a team with a starting quarterback who probably should've retired in the off-season, with a putrid offensive line starting two rookies, and no identity. Fast forward four weeks and they have a completely new outlook on the season. They picked up three straight wins (with a bye mixed in) and have rediscovered themselves.
The offensive line has been gaining chemistry and performing better each week, their run game has drastically improved with rookie phenom Najee Harris averaging 98 rushing yards over the last 3 games. It is key that Pittsburgh can maintain a strong run game after JuJu Smith-Schuester went down for the year with a shoulder injury.
On the other side of the ball, it is nothing new for the Steelers as they are once again a Top-10 ranked defense led by TJ Watt, Cam Heyward, and Minkah Fitzpatrick. If they can get pressure while only sending four rushers and dropping seven in coverage, Justin Fields will be in for a long, long game. Not to mention the Bears have given up the most sacks in the league.
By the Numbers:
--> Pittsburgh is 16-4 on Monday Night Football under Mike Tomlin
--> Pittsburgh is 4-3 ATS & Chicago is 3-5 ATS
--> Najee Harris has rushed for at least 81 yards in their last 3 games
Final Thoughts: Pittsburgh is simply better on both sides of the ball and they are playing in Pittsburgh. When you take that into consideration, while also considering that Mike Tomlin's teams are also known for playing down to their competition, I am staying away from the spread. I lean Pittsburgh but 6 is a lot of points in this matchup for me. I think the Steelers will have control of the game and look to exploit the Bears soft run defense with a hurt Mack.
Official pick: Najee Harris OVER 79.5 rush yards (-115)
Follow Jason Oppler on Twitter @JayOppler23
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