The highlight of the Week 13 NFL schedule is an AFC showdown between the Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Game time is at 8:20 EST on Sunday, December 2, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The game will be televised nationally on NBC.
According to oddsmakers, the Steelers are holding steady as 3.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 52 points. Click here to check out betting odds and game previews for the entire Week 13 schedule.
A week ago, the Steelers saw their six-game winning streak come to an end against the Broncos. Pittsburgh dominated the game statistically, out-gaining Denver by over 200 yards. However, the Steelers were doomed by four turnovers. That loss dropped Pittsburgh to 7-3-1 on the season, allowing the 6-5 Ravens to climb within striking distance inside the AFC South. If the Steelers aren’t able to get back on track quickly, they could lose their hold on the division.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, their schedule could make things difficult for them down the stretch. In addition to the Chargers, the Steelers still have games left against the Patriots and Saints. It’s vital that the Steelers hold serve at home this weekend or they could get sucked into the wild-card race rather than securing another division title.
As for the Chargers, they were able to get back on track with a lopsided win over the Cardinals one week after having their six-game winning streak come to an end, also at the hands of the Broncos. Los Angeles now sits at 8-3, giving them a two-game cushion over every other team in the wild-card race. Of course, the Chargers are still hoping to overtake the 9-2 Chiefs for the top spot in the AFC West, which obviously won’t be easy.
The good news for the Chargers is that they still have a head-to-head game with the Chiefs left on their schedule. The bad news is that Los Angeles also faces tough games against the Ravens and the Broncos late in the year. That’s not exactly a favorable schedule for the Chargers, who probably can’t afford to lose this week if they want to win the AFC West.
Despite last week’s loss, it’s tough betting against the Steelers. After a sluggish start early in the season, Pittsburgh has won their last three home games, and all by wide margins. However, this game feels destined to be close, which makes a 3.5-point spread a lot to cover. I also think the Chargers are good enough to perhaps steal a win on the road. I’ll lean toward the underdog in this game.
It’s worth noting that the Chargers will be without Melvin Gordon, who has been ruled out for the next few weeks with a knee injury. The Chargers have plenty of faith in backup Austin Ekeler to get a bulk of the carries while Gordon is out. However, Gordon has over twice as many carries this season as Ekeler, so there has to be some concern over not having Gordon as the workhorse. On the bright side, Ekeler is averaging 5.8 yards per carry this season. Even if he lacks Gordon’s size and power, he’s been a productive back this year.
Of course, the Chargers survived many years leaning on Philip Rivers, which they may have to do a little more of this week. Rivers is having one of the best seasons of his career and is coming off a near-perfect performance against Arizona last week. However, Gordon’s success on the ground is a big reason why. Also, Rivers and company will be facing a stout Pittsburgh defense that is one of the best in the NFL at putting pressure on quarterbacks.
Oddly enough, the Pittsburgh defense isn’t all that great at creating takeaways. Meanwhile, the Steelers have the opposite problem on offense. Ben Roethlisberger has already thrown 12 interceptions this season, including five over the last two weeks. As a team, the Steelers have committed seven turnovers over those two games. Not so coincidentally, they lost last week and were lucky to win the previous week.
The Steelers are also starting to experience some problems with their running game. James Conner has had a fine season, but he’s been held to 65 yards or less in his last three games. He also has just one touchdown during that span. With a modest running game in recent weeks, the Steelers are putting more on Roethlisberger. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem given their outstanding receivers. But with Roethlisberger’s ball security issues recently, there’s some reason for the Steelers to be concerned.
Again, it’s tough to go against the Steelers in this game. But their recent turnover problems are too much to overlook. Even without Gordon, the Chargers are dynamic enough offensively to take full advantage of extra possessions. Los Angeles is also 4-1 on the road this year, including a couple wins in the eastern time zone. That’s enough for me to take the Chargers and the points in what should be an entertaining and competitive game.