Falcons (+3) vs. Steelers | Over/Under: 57.5
Sunday, 1:00 pm EST / Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
PICK: OVER 57.5
The Jaguars-Chiefs game may be the best Week 5 matchup of serious contenders but the Falcons and Steelers both have more on the line Sunday than any other teams.
Both teams have been made deep playoff runs the last two seasons and came into 2018 with Super Bowl aspirations. Through four weeks though, the Falcons (1-3) and Steelers (1-2-1) have both struggled and find themselves at the bottom of their respective divisions. The first week of October is too early to declare any game a “must-win”, but a 1-4 start in a division with the Saints and Panthers would be a steep hill for the Falcons to climb. With the Ravens and Bengals both sitting at 3-1 atop the AFC North, the Steelers’ competition isn’t quite what Atlanta’s would be to climb back into a division race.
Bottom line, both teams need to win Sunday and will be, or at least should be, playing like their season is on the line.
The Falcons, who were quietly one of the best defensive teams in the NFC in 2017, lost a pair of Pro Bowlers in Deion Jones and Keanu Neal for the season Week 1. Outside of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and left tackle Ryan Matthews, Deion Jones is probably the player the Falcons could least afford to lose and it’s shown. They currently rank 30th in the league in scoring D and the announcement earlier this week that Grady Jarrett will likely miss multiple games doesn’t help either. The Steelers’ defense has been as bad if not worse than Atlanta’s and they’ve been relatively healthy this season. They’re just bad.
So far Matt Ryan is having his best statistical year of his career aside from his 2016 MVP season and Ben Roethlisberger is right there with him, leading the NFL in passing yards. Julio Jones and Antonio Bryant are still the two best receivers in the NFL and so far in 2018, Falcons’ rookie Calvin Ridley and Steelers’ second-year wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster have both been playing at a level well above most teams’ number one receiver.
Both offenses, the Falcons especially, are clicking on all cylinders. Both defenses have looked like spaghetti strainers. This game is going to be an absolute shootout and I’m pumped to watch it. Why the Texans and Cowboys are playing in prime time on Sunday night instead of this game or Jags-Chiefs is beyond me (doesn’t come close to cracking the list of top-1,000 dumbest things the NFL has done over the last five years though).