27 Dec Pick 3: Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati and Atlanta vs. Carolina
The Teaser: Pair Pittsburgh and Atlanta
Game 1: Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati
The Initial Line:
Pittsburgh -3.5 home vs. Cincinnati
Add 8 points to Pittsburgh’s line
The Final Line:
Pittsburgh won its 3rd straight game and clinched a playoff berth Sunday, as they pulled out the home victory against Kansas City 20-12. Ben Roethlisberger played well, going 18-25 for 220 yds and a TD. He was aided by Le’Veon Bell, who added 63 yds and a rush TD. The defense also forced the only fumble/turnover in the game, which ultimately made the difference. Cincinnati was able to get an impressive defeat on Monday Night Football against Denver, as they got the home win 37-28. The defense did a great job of shutting down Peyton Manning, as they forced 4 INTs against him including a Dre Kirkpatrick INT returned for a TD with under 3 minutes left. The running game continues to get stronger for Cincinnati, as they had over 200 yds with Jeremy Hill adding 147 of those yds with a TD.
Pittsburgh and Cincinnati always put a good show on, as these division rivals are usually evenly matched. This game has a lot of meaning for playoff implications, as the winner clinches the AFC North title and home field advantage for the wild card round. Pittsburgh has found the most recent success however, as they won the last 2 head-to-head matchups, including the one earlier this year 42-21. Ben Roethlisberger is a big reason for Pittsburgh’s resurgence, as he has the 2nd most passing yds in the NFL. Cincinnati’s strength is their running game, but they might find issues against a Pittsburgh D who ranks 6th in opp. rush yds allowed. This game should be close, but Pittsburgh is a slightly better team and has the home-field advantage. Take them at +4.5 in case Cincinnati finds a way to win it with a late FG.
Game 2: Atlanta vs. Carolina
The Initial Line:
Atlanta -3.5 home vs. Carolina
Add 8 points to Atlanta’s line
The Final Line:
Atlanta got a huge win eliminating their division rival New Orleans, as they went on the road to win 30-14. Matt Ryan helped lead his team to victory, going 30-40 for 322 yds and a TD. The defense really stepped up however, holding a potent New Orleans offense to 328 total yds and forced them into 4 turnovers. Carolina has surged of late to keep their playoff hopes alive, getting the home victory against Cleveland 17-13. Just 12 days after a car accident, Cam Newton came out to throw for 201 yds, a pass TD, and a rush TD. The defense has also been spectacular during the run, as they held Cleveland to only 228 total yds (1 play accounted for 81 yds in the 4th).
Miraculously either Atlanta or Carolina will clinch a playoff berth this weekend, despite the fact that neither team can finish with a .500 record. Carolina currently stands ahead of Atlanta in the NFC South, but this game decides who’s in and who gets sent home early. It will be interesting to see who wins the battle, as Atlanta is more of an offensive team (scored 73 more points than Carolina) but Carolina is known to be more defensive (although Atlanta’s only allowed 12 more points). Atlanta has been great in the turnover category, as they rank 6th with a +8 differential. Both teams will be going all out for this win, but Atlanta is at home and has the edge talent-wise. Take them at +4.5 in this close game.