Free NFL Picks: Pittsburgh at New Orleans 10-31-2010

October 29, 2010

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Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints

Sunday October 31st, 2010 8:20 PM EST

Line: Pittsburgh -1

Overview:

The Pittsburgh Steelers are performing at an elite level. They are 5-1 and have found a way to win by playing dominant, shut down defense. We will see how short the Saints’ memory is after they got spanked by the Cleveland Browns at home last week, who they were favored by 14 points against. The Saints have been involved in close games all year long. Their goal in this one is going to be to keep it close and give themselves an opportunity to win at the end.

Keys to the Game:

  • Rashard Mendenhall is poised to have a monster day. Mendenhall hasn’t had a 100 yard day since week three and the Saints are the perfect team to get something going against on the ground. The Steelers relied heavily on Mendenhall and their defense in the absence of Ben Roethlisberger. The Saints are much better at defending the pass than the run and the Steelers don’t mind taking what defenses give them. Mendenhall is a one cut runner who hits the hole with purpose. The Saints aren’t exactly a physical defense, so it will be interesting to see how they respond to one of the most physical offenses in the league.
  • When the Saints struggle on the ground, their offense gets off to a slow start. New Orleans can anticipate technical difficulties with their ground game. Pittsburgh only allows 63.7 yards a game on the ground. As a result, teams air the ball out in an effort to give themselves some breathing room. The Saints are built to take advantage of a Steelers defense that is vulnerable to an offense that can spread the ball around. They have a suffocating defense, but they are vulnerable to allowing plays to get behind them. By using their physicality and aggressiveness against them, teams can be effective on offense. Unfortunately, while that may seem feasible on paper, it is much more difficult when the James Harrison is trying to take the head off of everything that moves.
  • Drew Brees could nullify his four interception performance last week by picking apart the Steelers defense. The Saints grossly underestimated the Browns. It is very possible they were looking forward to this matchup and lost focus of the task at hand. The most dangerous thing you can do when you get your schedule is to mark the sure wins. The Browns at home might look like a slam dunk, but that is why they play all of the games. The Saints have not been looking like the Saints of a year ago. Every so often, Brees has put up a terrible day through the air, which didn’t happen last year whatsoever. Brees will need to remain consistent. What he did for New Orleans is fantastic, but it won’t be long before they develop a ‘what have you done for me lately attitude. The Saints dropped down to third place in the division in a hurry. It would be a shame to see them miss the playoffs entirely because they didn’t close out victories against teams like the Browns.
  • The Saints can’t compete physically on either side of the ball. The Steelers have a linebacking corp that are full of heat seeking missiles. Chris Ivory enjoyed an impressive day on the ground against Tampa Bay, but this is a different beast. He is going to have to run four yards just to get around Casey Hampton in the middle. The Saints don’t have a running back that can do the dirty work necessary to blast through the Steelers defense and nobody has been able to run around it yet. Troy Polomalu makes plays three yards in the backfield and thirty yards down the field. The Steelers have perfected organized chaos and the Saints are going to be given a slew of different looks.

Wrap Up:

While the NFC is wide open, it doesn’t look like the Saints are going to capitalize on the uncertainty. They have a slim chance of repeating based on what they have done so far this season, but a win against Pittsburgh could shift that notion. The Saints are certainly capable of competing with the Steelers, but they aren’t playing at a high level at the moment. The Steelers are bulldozing their way through the best teams in the NFL. The Saints need to make sure Drew Brees makes it out of this game. They still have another game before the bye week. Needless to say, I like the Steelers in this one. The Saints have lost to teams like the Cardinals and the Browns. They don’t have a signature win yet, and I don’t see them starting this week.

Free NFL Pick: Steelers -1


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