NFL Kickoff-Atlanta at Pittsburgh: Dennis Dixon Is the X-Factor in Week One

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst ISeptember 9, 2010

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 02:  Dennis Dixon #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers drops back to pass against the Carolina Panthers after Byron Leftwich left with an injury during the preseason game on September 2, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers

Date: Sunday, September 12, 2010 1:00 PM ET
Location: Heinz Field
Broadcast: FOX

Week 1 NFL Odds:
Atlanta: -2  (-110) /Pittsburgh: +2  (-110)
Total: 39 points : Over (-110), Under (-110)

The Atlanta Falcons start the season on the road as they travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as he is serving a four game suspension. Roethlisberger recently had his suspension reduced to four games and will not be allowed to suit up for this contest, due to violating the NFL personal conduct code. Because of this, the Steelers are in a rare position as underdogs on their home field.

The Top Online Sportsbooks have the latest line on this game and they have the Steelers as 2 point home underdogs and the total posted at 38.

Last month I made a case to have Dennis Dixon start as the Steelers quarterback while Roethlisberger sits out his suspension.

At the time veteran signal caller Byron Leftwich was tabbed to start the season under center, but after Leftwich suffered an injury in the preseason, Dixon will get the job.

Dixon’s numbers have not been all that bad in the preseason. He is 23 of 32 for 327 yards and two touchdowns, with two interceptions. These numbers are a bit skewed because Dixon did not get time with the starting unit until late in the preseason. This extra preparation time will make him a better quarterback in the regular season.

Last year he started a regular season game against the Ravens and although the Steelers lost in overtime, he looked decent and showed he could lead the team against a tough defense. Dixon will be facing a defense that is not as strong as the one he faced, when he started against the Ravens.

The Falcons are a good team and should have a great season.

Matt Ryan is a rising star at the quarterback position and the offense is complete with weapons to score against any team.

The Achilles heel for this team is the defense. The Falcons finished the 2009 season with a total defense ranking of 21st in the league. The Pass defense was ranked 28th in the league and is a glaring weak spot for the Birds. They did upgrade in the off season by signing free agent cornerback Dunta Robinson to a contract, but he has not been healthy in the preseason. I suspect him to suit up but not to be at 100% for the opener against the Steelers. The defense will have to worry about pass coverage and the mobility of Dixon. He has the ability to break some big runs if the coverage is tight.

The only concern would be the protection that Dixon may get from the offensive line. Dixon can help offset that as well, as any other quarterback that Pittsburgh could put in this spot may not have the “escape ability” that Dixon possess. Pittsburgh has covered the spread in five of its last seven season openers and the team will embrace the adversity that they have been inundated with since the Big Ben suspension. The Steelers are 5-1 against the spread (ATS) in the last six games as an underdog and they are 5-2 ATS against the NFC South.

The Steelers are too tough to beat at home on opening day. I will take the Steelers in week one to beat the birds.

Final: Pittsburgh 20 Atlanta 17

Other NFL Game Previews:

Dallas at Washington

Miami at Buffalo

Indianapolis at Houston

Bengals at Patriots

Packers at Eagles

Monday Night: Chargers at Chiefs

Five upsets for NFL Week One

Ten Really Bold Predictions For NFL Week One

Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews, and predictions. Feel Free to contact Matt at


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