In the first game of a Christmas Day double header, the Pittsburgh Steelers head down to Texas to take on the Houston Texans. The Steelers are still in contention for the top overall seed in the AFC and need a victory this week to keep pace with the Patriots. The Texans are hoping to play the role of Grinch on Christmas day and ruin Pittsburgh’s holiday plans. Kickoff inside NRG Stadium is at 4:30 PM ET.
Since 2002, the Steelers and Texans have played 5 times with Pittsburgh winning 3 of those games. Their last encounter was in 2014 and the Steelers won that game 30-23. Houston last hosted Pittsburgh in 2011 and the Texans were successful in defending their home turf as they won 17-10.
The Texans (4-10) are 3-4 at home and come into this matchup on a 4 game losing streak. Their season has been ravaged by injuries to key players and they’re playing musical chairs at quarterback. Despite their poor record, Houston has played tough under head coach O’Brien. Although this weekend looks ugly for Houston, their future looks bright heading into next year.
The Steelers (11-3) are 6-1 on the road and boast of an NFL high 8 Pro Bowl players. They come into this matchup without their top receiver Antonio Brown who is dealing with an injury and healing up for his return in the playoffs. Even without Brown, Pittsburgh will still be too much for the Texans to handle as they have Bell at RB, Big Ben at QB, both Bryant and Schuster as receivers.
The spread opened with the Steelers favored by 10 points, but it has since come down to 9 points. The Over/Under opened at 44 points and it has gone up to 45.5 total points.
Ok, so the Steelers haven’t really been great against the spread this season or the last few seasons. Currently, they’re 6-8 ATS this year. However, I don’t think that number matters much because they’re playing a bad football team that has no real passing attack and lacks any consistency in the running game. Additionally, the most Houston has scored over the last month has been 16 points. That won’t cut it against a Steelers team that can put up 30 points in a hurry.
Continuing on this path, Houston just got pummeled by a Jaguars team 45-7 and Jacksonville doesn’t have nearly as an explosive offense as the Steelers do. Houston gives up 261 passing ypg, but over the last two weeks it has been even higher. 2 weeks ago, Houston allowed 49ers QB Jimmy G. to throw for 334 yards and a TD. Last weekend, the Texans allowed Jaguars QB Blake Bortles to throw for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns. Big Ben is better than both of these young QBs and I expect him to throw for at least 300 yards and 3 TDs even without Antonio Brown. On the season, Pittsburgh averages 290.6 passing ypg.
Another thing to take into consideration is that the Texans haven’t faced a running back like Le’Veon Bell all season. The closest back comparable to Bell’s production was Houston’s Week 10 matchup against Todd Gurley who finished with 136 total yards that game. To further my point from above, Rams QB Jared Goff threw for 355 yards and 3 TDs that game.
Bottom line, Houston is in deep trouble this week as they go up against an angry Steelers team who gave away the top seed to the Patriots last weekend. Pittsburgh will be out for vengeance and they will light up the scoreboard. I expect this game to be a blowout in a hurry. Look for the Steelers to come out swinging and lead by 3 scores at halftime. Big Ben and Bell will lead this team to a 34-16 victory. Before I forget, Houston’s top receiver Hopkins will get his stats in garbage time. The Pro Bowl receiver is top 5 in all major receiving categories and leads the league in touchdown catches. If you are in the fantasy football championships this weekend, start all of your Steelers players and defense with confidence. You can also start Hopkins as well.
Houston is 3-9 ATS when playing on Monday night, 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games during December, 6-12 ATS in their last 18 games against teams with a winning record, and 2-5 ATS in their last 7 overall games. Pittsburgh is 2-1 ATS in their last 3 Monday games and 19-14 ATS in their last 33 games as a favorite. The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 head-to-head meetings.