Andrew Luck put his stamp on the front pages with his proficient performance against the St Louis Rams in Week 1 of the preseason, but what does he have in store for an encore?
In Week 1 I faded one of the preseason all-star coaches in Mike Tomlin. I felt fortunate to come away with the win thanks to an inspired second half by the Eagles, but make no mistake about it—Tomlin was trying for the win in the fourth quarter. His overall NFLX record fell to 16-6, but he still has a winning record in each individual week in the preseason to date. Coach Todd Haley told the press that they didn't really open the playbook last week (CBSsports.com)—instead focusing on sustaining drives and red zone efficiency. This is what he was brought in for, but they also plan on expanding things as the weeks go on.
Chuck Pagano doesn't have a resume to speak of, but he had his team fired up for the home opener against the Rams. This will be a much different test for his squad in a tough road environment.
The Steelers opened at -4.5, but that quickly got bet down to -4 and -3.5, depending on where you look (odds courtesy of SBRforum). I'd be genuinely surprised if the line moved to -3 which is why I'm going ahead with -3.5. I never like laying the hook—especially in the preseason, but I feel pretty good about the play. In fact, it wouldn't shock me for the line to move in our favor leading up to game time.
Who covers the spread?
A nice trend is also in our favor this week. Teams coming off a Week 1 NFLX loss are 59.1 percent against the spread in Week 2 and teams coming off a Week 1 NFLX win are 41.1 percent against the spread. Both dynamics are at work in this matchup.
I'm writing this section as I wipe egg from my face after fading Andrew Luck's debut last week. It's not that I was down on him, but I didn't think the pieces around him would be up to the task to kick things off. I give the kid a ton of credit for taking complete command of the huddle and putting up multiple touchdowns in limited action.
The problem I see here is obvious—Dick Lebeau and his zone scheme will be a whole new animal on Sunday night. I don't think they'll go out of their way to game plan Luck extensively, but I'm sure they'll give the rookie looks he's never seen before. I'm counting on Luck to have a tough challenge and he won't have the benefit of a wildly supportive home crowd.
Drew Stanton and Chandler Harnish did well to mop up against the Rams, but by the time they got in the game most St Louis players were already making arrangement to get on the plane and head home.
For the Steelers, it's unsure at the time of this write-up what the QB rotation will be and for how long, but I feel very confident no matter what direction they go. None of the QB's in Week 1 really aired it out with the exception of a couple plays that broke long as the Steelers used a heavy ground and pound approach. Jerrod Johnson looked decent in his time on the field and flashed some of his natural dynamic ability.
The Steelers are still figuring out what's what on their O-line and this remains a definite concern. Philly has great depth on their D-line, but the protection was downright awful at times. Indy has switched to a much more aggressive style defense this year under Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky, so this will be one area to watch on Sunday.
Isaac Redman is out with a groin strain, but they have enough young blood (Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey) at the position to move the chains.
Andrew Luck has injected a ton of optimism into Indianapolis with his Week 1 performance and Chuck Pagano seems to have everybody on the same page, but their rebuilding plan certainly isn't going to go on without some speed bumps along the way. I think the first of many will be in Pittsburgh.
NFL Pick: PIT -3.5.