Yes, it’s true, after two weeks the Las Vegas Raiders remain in first place in the AFC West (albeit in a tie this time around) — and a game ahead of the 0-2 Chargers and Broncos. And yes, this Sunday’s home game against the Steelers is their most winnable game on the calendar for a few weeks — so for Josh McDaniels and company there’s a lot riding on this one.
The truth is, when you zoom out, Sunday’s game — more than any other on the calendar — is probably the single best litmus test we’ll have to gauge just how good this Raiders team really is. They’re favored, at home, against a floundering Steelers team that hasn’t been able to string any sort of offensive production together.
If the Raiders are a true playoff contender, these are games they absolutely have to win (much like the Broncos game). On the flip side, if they lose this game, where do the wins come from? They probably won’t be favored again until at least Week 6 (home against the Patriots) — and it’s possible they aren’t even favorites in that one!
The point is: Sunday’s game is a big one, so let’s dive into some picks via BetOnline.AG
Last week: 3-2, +.65 units (Season: 5-5, +3.15 units)
Game Total UNDER 43 (-115)
In two games, the Steelers offense has mustered just 19 offensive points — and one of their two offensive touchdowns came on a 71-yard pass. While I don’t think the Raiders defense is good, I think they’re good enough to hold an out-of-rhythm Steelers offense in check. On the other side of the ball, the Steelers defense is legit, and I don’t think the Raiders will have much success moving the ball against them, so I’m taking the game under here.
Najee Harris OVER 49.5 Rushing Yards (-110)
The Raiders run defense was embarrassing last week, and given that I think this turns into a ball control type game — and because Harris is a bell cow for Pittsburgh — give me 50+ rushing yards for Najee.
Kenny Pickett OVER 11.5 Rushing Yards (-115)
Pickett only has five rushing attempts so far, but with Maxx Crosby wreaking havoc off the hedge I could see some plays breaking down and Pickett making some plays with his legs. Given how bad the Pittsburgh offense has been, maybe they lean a bit more on this piece of their offense to try and spark something.
Jimmy Garoppolo OVER 0.5 Interceptions (-122)
The Steelers’ defense is a playmaking unit, and with TJ Watt blowing all sorts of stuff up for opposing offenses, I could see Jimmy throwing some passes before he wanted to and making a mistake. (I don’t see a line for Watt sacks, but if you find one, I’d pound the over).
Steelers MONEYLINE to Win (+130)
I could take the 2.5 points that are out there in most places, but I just don’t feel great about this matchup, so I’ll take the plus odds. Mike Tomlin is one of the best coaches in the league, and I think that’s the difference between the two teams that are pretty comparable when it comes to overall ability. I know it’s a home game, I just don’t think the Raiders offense is going to get anything going, and so I think the Pittsburgh defense ultimately wins the day.