Pittsburgh (11-6) at Denver (12-4)
When: Sunday, January 17th 2016
Where: Sports Authority Field, Denver, CO
Time: 4:40 ET | TV: CBS
Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning are expected to face each other on Sunday when the Denver Broncos host the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. The Steelers might have survived Cincinnati last week, but they lost Antonio Brown when he was hit in the head by the Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict. Brown has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, but the Steelers still have threats in Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton – as well as trusty tight end Heath Miller. Bryant had 10 catches when Pittsburgh beat Denver 34-27 in Week 15. Wheaton had four touchdown receptions in the last six weeks of the regular season. DeAngelo Williams (907 rushing yards, 367 receiving) was injured in Week 17 against the Brown and missed last week’s game and is not expected to play today. Jordan Todman (65 yards) and Fitzgerald Toussaint (58 yards rushing, 60 yards receiving) will be the featured backs now. The big question is quarterback. Roethlisberger injured his shoulder in the Cincinnati game, but came back in late to lead the Steelers to victory. He could barely lift his arm above his shoulder after the game, but is expected to play against Denver. He threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns against Denver in Week 15 while throwing a season-high 55 passes. The Pittsburgh defense has allowed only 28 points in its past two games.
The Broncos are a little more confident with their QB situation as Peyton Manning appears to be ready to go. He missed several weeks down the stretch, but entered the team’s regular-season finale and engineered four scoring drives en route to a 27-20 victory over San Diego. Manning was only 5-of-9 in the game as Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson took things over on the ground combining for 212 yards rushing and two scores. Manning might have missed the first meeting with Pittsburgh this season, but WR Emmanuel Sanders did, and had 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown. Fellow wide receiver Demaryius Thomas had 117 yards receiving last week and two of his six touchdowns this season have come against the Steelers. The Denver defense is sure to have a better performance against Pittsburgh this time around. The Broncos had the top-ranked defense in the league overall and were also number one against the pass limiting opponents to just 199.6 yards a game through the air. Cornerback Aqib Talib led the Broncos with three interceptions and returned two of them for scores.
As of Saturday morning, Roethlisberger was cleared to play, but how effective is he really going to be? He still has capable receivers, but doesn’t have a run game to rely on. We know Manning is going to play, but he hasn’t been 100% in a few years and he never does well in cold weather games. Its supposed to be close to freezing by the start of the game and then drop. I don’t think we’ll see a 34-27 game like we did in Pittsburgh. I’m going to call for a Steelers’ cover here. If Ben plays, he’ll do everything he can to keep them in it.
Pick: Steelers +7.5