The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t likely to win the AFC North with the 8-2 Cincinnati Bengals sitting at the top 3 games up on the Black & Yellow with 6 games remaining and only one head to head matchup. Yet, the Steelers are going for the NFC West crown. Pittsburgh is 3-0 against the NFC West this season, beating San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona. Now, fresh off the BYE week, here comes the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle is now 5-5 after beating the San Francisco 49ers 29-13. This matchup has huge playoff implications in both the AFC and NFC. Both teams need a victory to stay in the Wild Card hunt, as each isn’t likely to win its division.
FiveThirtyEight.com, a site that uses statistical analysis to predict each week’s games, gives the reigning NFC Champions a 65% chance to beat the Steelers. ESPN’s FPI only gives the Steelers a 42% chance to win. The odds makers in Vegas are giving the Steelers +3.5. Take those numbers for whatever they’re worth to you. Anyway, here are some keys for Pittsburgh to get win number 7 on the season.
The Seahawks are 0-5 when allowing their opposition to score 20+ points. The Steelers average 23.6 points per game. But, with Roethlisberger in the lineup, they average 25.7. It seems simple to say all Roethlisberger and the Killer B’s need to do is out score the Hawks, but in this case, if they can hit that mark, that’s half the battle.
My favorite stat to watch during a game is third down efficiency. The Seahawks defense is 4th in the NFL at 32%. The Steelers offense is 26th at 35% in converting. A team’s ability or inability to get off the field on defense, or stay on the field when on offense aids their effort to win. Keep your eye on this stat throughout the game. If the Steelers are winning in this area, they’re likely to win.
The other key stat to watch, is of course turnovers. The once vaunted “Legion of Boom” only has 4 interceptions on the season. This season, they’ve only created a total of 11 turnovers. The Steelers are +5 in the turnover margin on the season. Their defense has created 18 turnovers in 2015, 9 interceptions and 9 fumbles. Edge Pittsburgh.
Seattle’s D gives up 303.6 yards per game. That’s 2nd in the NFL behind the Denver Broncos. Pittsburgh Offense is 6th in the NFL at 384.9 yards per game. This is strength on strength. Yards per game stats can be deceiving because one team may be playing from behind, while the other has gone into a prevent just to salt the game away. The Seahawks have blown a 4th quarter lead in all 5 of their losses.
Lastly, if the Steelers are to move to 7-4, they’ll have to stop the number 1 rushing attack in the NFL. Seattle average 148.6 yards per game, and has a balanced attack with Marshawn Lynch–who didn’t play Sunday against San Francisco due to an abdomen injury that may require surgery–and QB Russell Wilson. Pittsburgh is 5th in the league against the run, allowing only 93 yards per game on the ground.
One more key-note: Head Coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are 6-2 in his tenure after the break. Kickoff is Sunday at 4:25 PM in Century Link Field.