The resurgent Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) will look to continue their march towards the playoffs against the slumping San Diego Chargers (4-8) at Heinz Field on Sunday.
The Steelers have shown the usual resolve that the organization has become known for this season. Despite key injuries all over the field, including quarterback, the Steelers have managed to stay in the playoff hunt.
After last week's win against the Ravens with Charlie Batch at quarterback, it would appear the Steelers are really peaking at the right time.
The Chargers didn't peak at the right time at all this season. After starting off the season with a 3-1 mark, the team has completely fallen apart. At 4-8, the Chargers have won exactly one game in their last eight.
Here's everything you need to know about Sunday's game.
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Sunday, December 9 at 1:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL.com
Spread: Pittsburgh -7.5 (via Covers.com)
The Steelers are favored and rightfully so.
San Diego is an absolute mess right now and there's very little indication that it's a team ready to fight for its coach or front office.
Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has plenty left to play for this season and is coming off a huge win last week against Baltimore. Expect the Steelers to know that they are essentially playing for the playoffs every week and put this one away early.
Over/Under: 41.5 (via Covers.com)
When you think of Pittsburgh, you think of elite defense and that's still the case.
The Steelers have really been a steel curtain-esque defense this season and should have no problems shutting down Phillip Rivers and Co.
The Chargers, despite the awful record, haven't played awful defense. They rank sixth in the league in stopping the run and should be able to limit Pittsburgh's stable of backs. The under looks like the better bet here.
Injury Report (via CBS Sports) as of Dec. 7, 2012
San Diego Chargers
|S||Troy Polamalu||Not injury related||Questionable|
|QB||Ben Roethlisberger||Right shoulder||Probable|
|LB||LaMarr Woodley||Ankle||Questionable |
Fantasy Big Plays
San Diego: Ryan Mathews, RB
Mathews hasn't lived up to the preseason expectation that he would be an elite fantasy back, but his versatility and receiving have given his value a boost despite meager production as a runner.
Going against this tough defense, it's unlikely that Mathews has a huge day on the ground. However, as a dump-off option for Rivers in the passing game, Mathews could make up for a lack of success as a runner as a receiver.
Expect him to see enough opportunities to piece together a good game.
Projected Stats: 15 carries, 60 yards, 7 receptions, 30 yards, 1 TD
Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger, QB
Per the team's official blog, Roethlisberger will return to action this week against the Chargers. For Big Ben fantasy owners, this news couldn't have come at a better time.
The Chargers are allowing an average of 15.8 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in standard scoring leagues. Before the injuries forced him to miss serious time, Roethlisberger was having one of the best seasons of his career.
Roethlisberger may not be completely healthy, but we've seen him play through injuries before. As long as he is on the field, he belongs in your fantasy lineup.
Projected Stats: 27-of-37 for 270 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Key to Victory: Turnovers
The key for this Pittsburgh team is turnovers.
With a defense as good as the Steelers defense has been this year, the offense doesn't have to do much for the team to be successful. However, it must allow time for the defense to rest.
When the Steelers turn the ball over eight times like they died against the Browns in their last loss, they make it nearly impossible for themselves to win.
If the Steelers are able to win the time of possession and don't turn the ball over, there's no way that the Chargers win.
The Steelers have too much at stake to lose this game. Roethlisberger's return to the lineup should make this offense better immediately and take some pressure off of the running backs.
In the end, San Diego doesn't have much to play for and will struggle to get any offense going against a tough Pittsburgh defense.
Final Score: Pittsburgh 23, San Diego 13