A tough loss last week brings Fabian Sommer to 4-2 on the season but he’s unperturbed and moves on to Week 7 with another total play this time in the AFC!
We can’t win them all!
Last week’s Over in the Rams/49ers matchup died midway through the game, but we are back at it with another total in the NFL’s new scoring environment.
It wouldn’t shock me if scoring came down a little bit soon, especially with divisional games starting.
Having said that there is absolutely no excuse not to pick up a great matchup that is set up well to go over this time.
The average scoring total league-wide this year is 50.7 points per game across 91 games.
Since Ryan Tannehill took over from Marcus Mariota in 2019, Titans games are 14-4 towards the Over with an average scoring total of 53.6 PPG.
Home games are 8-1 towards the Over, with a whopping average scoring total of 59.2 PPG.
So, why is this market sitting exactly around the average scoring total for the NFL in 2020 and not a field goal higher, especially since the Steelers offense is no slouch?
I believe that the market is overvaluing Pittsburgh’s defense.
The Steelers defense gets touted for its famous defense and recent results speak for themselves.
They rank 2nd overall in DVOA, 1st against the run and 8th against the pass. The latter is an important aspect.
They rank “just” 8th against the pass at -3.2%.
DVOA incorporates the strength of schedule and the Steelers get a downgrade in raw VOA after playing arguably the easiest schedule in the league.
The Steelers D also rank 5th in EPA/dropback at -0.02 which is not an astonishing value, either.
They’ve faced QBs Daniel Jones, Jeff Driskel, Deshaun Watson with Bill O’Brien, Carson Wentz with a decimated offense, and Baker Mayfield.
The Steelers have the best defensive line in the league, but in all those matchups they have shown a vulnerability in coverage. Their coverage grade (Pro Football Focus) ranks 15th in the league, right around average.
Their defense has also just lost their mike linebacker and defensive play-caller (Devin Bush) for the season and they might also be without slot cornerback Mike Hilton. The depth behind Bush is thin and the Titans could force the Steelers to play with two or three linebackers in base packages by coming out in heavy personnel to run play-action.
Against the Titans, they will face by far the toughest matchup in terms of opposing quarterback in combination with his weapons.
Ryan Tannehill is on an absolute heater right now and there isn’t anything that points to a massive regression in the near future. They lead the league in EPA/dropback (0.35) and success rate (0.608) while completing passes 6% above expectation. Tannehill has the 5th-highest passing grade on the season.
Playing without LT Taylor Lewan against this defensive line is going to hurt. But only if OC Arthur Smith intends on running into brick walls all game long. He might come out with a lot of his play-action crossing routes where Steelers FS Minkah Fitzpatrick has to choose one receiver to pick up.
The Titans have increased their play-action rate to 38% this year, which is a top value.
Tannehill is also averaging 4.0 yards per play more with play-action versus non-PA. The scheme is working. If Tannehill gets the ball out, they should be fine. The Steelers don’t have the manpower to cover AJ Brown and Corey Davis. The latter hasn’t played since week 3, but he has really emerged this season. Davis is also the 11th overall graded wide receiver by Pro Football Focus – Tannehill will have both guys at his disposal this week which should be frightening for the Steelers.
I struggle to find a lot of reasons to assume the Titans won’t be able to score 30 points in this matchup.
Enter the Steelers offense which is really coming together with Ben Roethlisberger this season.
They rank 8th in EPA/dropback and 12th in pass DVOA.
In addition, this is the first week where they might have wide receivers Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster starting altogether.
Johnson was basically injured since week two and Claypool only ran 20 routes in weeks one and two. They are matching up against a Titans defense that can’t generate any pressure on opposing quarterbacks – 32nd in pass-rushing grade and 22nd in ESPN’s pass rush win rate metric. The Steelers have a very solid pass-blocking unit and might just get RG David DeCastro back. Rookie RG Kevin Dotson has been playing lights out, so the Steelers might switch him to LG and Matt Feiler back to RT which should improve the unit. Tennessee doesn’t have the cornerbacks to cover those Steelers receivers, either.
We should see plenty of points in this battle, with a spread that indicates a close game and a favourable game script throughout the 60 minutes without either team pulling away.
I am looking at scores in the 30-27 range.
- Steelers/Titans Over 50.5 -110 (1.91)