Despite a setback last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers will continue their playoff push in Week 16 when they pay a visit to the New York Jets. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 22 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Steelers as 3-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 38.5 points. Make sure you check out a full list of this week’s NFL betting odds.
Pittsburgh’s playoff chances took a hit last week when they dropped a home game to the Bills 17-10. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak, taking away some of the momentum the Steelers have built up in recent weeks. Nevertheless, the Steelers have still won seven of their last nine games and are still in good shape.
At is stands, the 8-6 Steelers are tied with the Titans for the last Wild Card spot in the AFC. Pittsburgh currently has the tiebreaker advantage, which means the Steelers will go to the playoffs if they can win their final two games. However, the Steelers are on the road the last two weeks of the season, including next week’s season finale against the Ravens. While the Steelers need to take care of their own business, they will also have one eye on the Titans in hope that a Tennessee loss will help give them a little breathing room.
As for the Jets, they will miss the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year. New York had some chances to stick around after Sam Darnold returned from his bout with mono earlier this season. However, inexplicable losses to the Dolphins and Bengals helped knock the Jets out, leaving them with nothing to play for late in the year.
The Jets certainly looked like a team with nothing left to play for last Thursday against the Ravens. New York fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter, ultimately losing 42-21. If not for a last-second field goal against the Dolphins two weeks ago, the Jets would be in the midst of a three-game losing streak. Another losing season has undoubtedly left the fanbase frustrated heading into their home finale.
The Steelers certainly aren’t earning any style points these days. But despite an abundance of injuries, they’ve proven that they can beat subpar teams. Plus, all but one of Pittsburgh’s wins this season have come by at least five points, so a 3-point spread in this game doesn’t feel that daunting. The Jets, meanwhile, don’t have a win over a team with a winning record. Motivation could also be an issue for them this week Even after last week’s loss, I feel comfortable leaning toward Pittsburgh to win and cover this week.
Despite throwing four interceptions last week, Devlin Hodges will remain Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback. The leash may not be particularly wrong, but the Steelers should be in good hands. There’s no shame in an inexperienced quarterback getting knocked around by a strong Buffalo defense. Things should come a little easier this week against the Jets, who aren’t great against the run and have underwhelming sack numbers this season.
The biggest problem that Hodges has is that JuJu Smith-Schuster is still questionable to play. Tight end Vance McDonald may not be ready to return from injury either. The inexperienced quarterback may still have to rely on a pair of inexperienced receivers in Diontae Johnson and James Washington. Both have shown flashes, but neither is a proven game-changer. The good news is that James Conner is back from injury. He got only eight carries last week, but it should be a little easier for the Pittsburgh offense to ride him against a weak Jets defense.
Fortunately for the Steelers, they might not have to score that many points to win. The Pittsburgh defense has conceded 17 points or less in five of their last six games. Even in the team’s recent losses, the defense has done enough to give them a chance.
Specifically, look for Pittsburgh’s pass rush to expose a weak offensive line. The Steelers are averaging 3.5 sacks per game, which is on par with how many sacks the Jets are giving up. Along those same lines, running the ball continues to be a struggle for the Jets. Le’Veon Bell will be motivated to face his former team, but without better play from the offensive line, he might not have much room to run. That will leave everything up to Darnold, who has disappointed in recent weeks and is likely to face a lot of pressure from the Pittsburgh pass rush.
All things considered, this is the kind of game that will suit the Steelers well. It’s the kind of game that their defense can dominate, giving them plenty of time to establish Conner on the ground and not ask too much of Hodges. The Steelers have proven they can win games like that, and I think they’ll be able to win another one like that while also covering the 3-point spread.