For the second week in a row, the Philadelphia Eagles are big underdogs.
They managed to beat the San Francisco 49ers despite the opposition being favored by a full touchdown. Can the Birds pull off another upset this week against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that enters Week 5 as seven point favorites?
It’s not going to be easy.
Unlike the 49ers, the Steelers aren’t missing their starting quarterback and many other key contributors. Pittsburgh actually boasts one of the healthiest rosters in the league; they only have two players on injured reserve (must be nice!). One of them is starting right tackle Zach Banner and the other is a backup offensive lineman whose name you might recognize: Stefen Wisniewski. Despite these absences, the Steelers have the league’s fifth best pass blocking unit as graded by Pro Football Focus.
Pittsburgh has certainly given Ben Roethlisberger ample time to throw. There were questions about the 38-year-old’s status heading into the 2020 season coming off his season-ending elbow injury in 2019. But Big Ben still looks pretty good considering he’s thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception for the league’s 10th highest passer rating. He doesn’t lack weapons with which to spread the ball around; JuJu Smith-Schuster, rookie Chase Claypool, Chase Claypool, Eric Ebron, and James Washington are all viable options. James Conner, Benny Snell, and Anthony MacFarland have all been very efficient running the ball with a combined 5.3 rushing average.
The real challenge, though, involves the Eagles’ struggling offense trying to score against one of the league’s best defenses. The Steelers’ defense ranks third in DVOA, tied for second in opponent yards per play, and fifth in opponent points per game. Pro Football Focus has Pittburgh’s pass rush (alliteration alert) graded as the NFL’s top unit. That’s pretty concerning for an Eagles offensive line that’s starting multiple backups and protecting a quarterback who has arguably been the NFL’s worst quarterback through four games. Hard to imagine this being a “get right” game for Carson Wentz.
All told, the Steelers look like a pretty formidable opponent. You can say they’ve only beaten bad teams to this point (0-4 New York Giants, 1-3 Denver Broncos, 0-4 Houston Texans). But it’s not like the Eagles are suddenly a good team just because they beat the 49ers. Roethlisberger is at least solid, the Pittsburgh defense is very good, and Mike Tomlin is one of the NFL’s best head coaches. Oh, and the Steelers have a rest advantage coming off an unexpected bye. And they’ll have some supporters in the stands at Heinz Field.
I can’t not pick the Eagles to lose here. What say you?
Which bet do you like more?
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