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Week 15 Spreads: Packers vs. Steelers

NFL Game of the Week – Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, December 20th – 1:00 PM ET Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
NFL Point Spread: Steelers -1.5, O/U: 41

Raise your hand if, five weeks ago, you felt that the Green Bay Packers, and not the Pittsburgh Steelers, would be a lock for the playoffs entering this week 15 collision. It’s been a stunning month for both of these teams – pleasantly for Mike McCarthy’s Pack Attack, and horrifyingly so for young Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin – as two proud franchises have swerved in perpendicularly opposite directions.

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The Packers, once stuck in the mud at 4-4, have peeled off five straight wins to soar to 9-4, while the Steelers – once 6-2 – now sit at 6-7 after an unfathomable five-game losing streak that has included embarrassing defeats against NFL tomato cans from Kansas City, Oakland and – worst of all – the rival Cleveland Browns on Dec. 10.

NFL Handicapping: What The Packers Have To Do To Win

Protect Aaron Rodgers. No one in the world knows what to expect from an injury-affected and wildly inconsistent Pittsburgh offense, so the Steelers’ best chance of winning this game lies with their defense, and its ability to rattle Rodgers, who will be stepping into a daunting road environment this week. Pittsburgh – for all its weaknesses – can still bring “Blitzburgh” into the equation under astute defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who will be intent on finding angles to the Packers’ prized young quarterback.

If Green Bay’s offensive front can buy time for Rodgers and prevent the blind-side sacks that Pittsburgh counts on at home, the Packers can minimize their turnover total and deny the Steelers the cheap points they need. If Green Bay protects Rodgers, the Pack will force a struggling (and concussed) Ben Roethlisberger to post a big number in order to win the game.

Perhaps the Packers won’t go wild on offense (they probably won’t), but upon further analysis, they don’t really have to. As long as they score at least 20 points, take care of the ball, and play field position, the visitors from the NFC North don’t have to engage in a shootout.

NFL Handicapping: What The Steelers Have To Do To Win

Spill the tank.

It’s one of the great head-scratchers of this 2009 NFL season: How can the defending Super Bowl champions not only lose five straight games, but drop a series of decisions against a number of really bad teams in a season that’s been defined by bad teams?

Tomlin promised a strong performance before his team’s most recent game against Cleveland, but the pop-gun Steelers could only muster six points against the beleaguered and impotent Browns, a shocking new low for a football team trying to defend its world championship. With the season spinning out of control and their playoff chances about to expire, the Steelers must respond to their situation the only way they can: with complete desperation and all-out effort.

The fact that they played a Thursday night game in week 14 will give them three extra days of rest and preparation for the Packers. If Pittsburgh can’t empty its emotional and physical reserves in this game, the Steelers won’t be able to look themselves in the mirror when the offseason arrives at a painfully early date.

NFL Handicapping: Outlook & Pick

The Packers are extremely hot, the Steelers extremely cold. Will two streaks remain intact, or will the law of averages suggest that Pittsburgh has to win a game and cool off a Packer team that’s solid, but not spectacular? The Steelers – if playing on a short week of preparation – would not have been in good shape for this game, but the fact that they’ve had three extra days of rest means that they should be mentally ready to compete. Besides, the Steelers have also had three extra days to hear how horrible and washed-up they are. That anger should make a difference as the streaks come to an end in Pittsburgh.

NFL Point Spread Pick: Steelers -1.5 & Under 41

NFL Prop Betting: Team To Score First And Score In First Six Minutes

This should be a defense-dominated game, especially since Pittsburgh is the pick against the spread. The home team should draw first blood, but it should also take at least half a quarter for either offense to get something going. One thing to watch for is an early Steeler turnover – maybe a pick-six – against Aaron Rodgers.

NFL Winning Pick: Steelers Will Score First, No Score In First Six Minutes

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