Nearly halfway through the 2014 NFL season, it’s still difficult to tell whether or not the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) or Houston Texans (3-3) will be contenders in the AFC. More questions are likely to be answered about both teams when they face off on “Monday Night Football” in Week 7.
Pittsburgh has a few impressive wins on their resume, defeating the 3-2 Cleveland Browns and blowing out the Panthers in Carolina. In their losses, though, the Steelers have looked like one of the worst teams in the league, losing by 20 points to the Baltimore Ravens and by three touchdowns in Cleveland.
Houston started off the season at 3-1, and sits in second place, but they haven’t gotten a marquee victory. They’ve struggled against their toughest competition, with all their losses coming to teams that have at least a .500 record.
Even though the two teams share the same record, Pittsburgh is more in need of a win. The AFC North is proving to be the best division in all of football, considering no team has a losing record and the Steelers are in last place. Other than the Indianapolis Colts, Houston doesn’t have any competition in the AFC South. The Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars have a combined 2-10 record.
As the two teams fight to get a winning record, the spotlight will be on the starting running backs. Monday Night’s contest will feature the No.2 and No.3 rushers in the NFL.
After DeMarco Murray, nobody has rushed for more yards than Le’Veon Bell. The Pittsburgh running back has made the most of his carries, averaging 5.2 yards per attempt and recording four rushes of at least 20 yards.
Bell has also caused trouble for defenses as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s caught 28 passes for 251 yards, ranking second on the team in receptions.
Arian Foster is the league’s third-leading rusher, but when healthy he’s been every bit as good as Bell, if not better. An injury caused the 28-year-old to miss Week 3, and limited him to just six yards on eight carries in his next contest. However, Foster totaled at least 103 yards on the ground in every other game.
The Texans rely heavily on Foster, considering they have the 28th ranked passing attack in the NFL. Ryan Fitzpatrick ranks 24th or worse in passer rating, touchdowns, and yards per game. Since the team’s 2-0 start, he’s thrown for three scores and six interceptions.
Ben Roethlisberger has a chance to take advantage of one of the league’s worst pass defenses. He’s been pretty consistent in 2014, but the Steelers struggle immensely on offense when he has a poor game. Twice the quarterback has registered a passer rating of less than 100.0, and Pittsburgh combined to score 16 points in those contests.
The teams are considered to be even, with the Las Vegas betting odds making the home Steelers a three-point favorite. The point spread was at four points, but has dropped over the course of the week. The over/under comes in at 44.5 total points.
Prediction: The Week 7 finale is essentially a coin flip. Pittsburgh has the edge at home, but the Texans proved they can win in a hostile environment when they beat Oakland. The Steelers have trouble when Roethlisberger struggles, and J.J. Watt could cause him to have a long night.
Predicted Score: Houston 20, Pittsburgh 17