Past Expert Picks
An assortment of Steelers, notably quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, are refreshed after missing large chunks of last season while injured. Coach Mike Tomlin reportedly conducted among the most hard-hitting practices in camp, which should have the Pittsburgh tuned for the real thing. The league’s top sacks squad from a year ago might chew up and spit out a Giants line with at least two new starters. Welcome to the NFL head coaching fraternity, Joe Judge. Your team has covered in just one of the last 11 home gigs as an underdog.
Can we really expect much from the Giants offense in this game? It's their first game under the new coaching staff with no preseason under their belt to get comfortable, and now they have to face maybe the top defense in the league to open the season. A healthy Big Ben makes the Steelers offense a tough matchup for a Giants defense that should struggle this year, but is there really any reason for them to run up the score in the second half if they're up big? I think in order for this to go Over, you need a Giants offense that can be competitive in this game, and the odds are stacked against them.
Pittsburgh was a top-five defense last year, leading the league in sacks with 54. Last year one of the major issues with the Giants, especially when Daniel Jones took over for Eli Manning, was giving up too many sacks. Jones also had an issue with ball security. Generating turnovers is another area where the Steelers excelled last season. Ten starters return on that defense, and the Giants will be starting a rookie at left tackle. This is just an overall bad matchup for New York.
There’s a theory held by some smart Las Vegas oddsmakers that NFL totals should be dropped almost 7 points because of having no preseason games, kind of like what we saw with the AAF totals early on. The defenses will be way ahead of the offenses for the first four weeks. I think that means bad news for Ben Roethlisberger in his first live action on the comeback trail. Both defenses will play well in a low-scoring game, with one big play deciding the game late.
Giants QB Daniel Jones was solid in his last four games, going 3-1 ATS. His next step of being that guy is winning a big Week 1 game at home against a better opponent with no fans, but knowing all of New York and its press is watching on TV. I was forced into making this bet after the number jumped from 3.5 all the way to 6. Grab the points with the Giants.
Though fading Ben Roethlisberger on Monday nights is usually a good idea, there will be no fans in the stands for this game and his preparation schedule will not be affected since it is Week 1. With that concern out of the way, the swinging factor for me in this game is Pittsburgh's defense, which should be able to take advantage of Daniel Jones and a New York team playing its first game under Joe Judge. Whereas the Giants are breaking in a new coach, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are the model of consistency. Plus, Big Ben, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner are all healthy. Will Saquon Barkley be able to do this on his own? Don't think so.
Ben Roethlisberger is making his first start in a year on Monday night. Ben's getting older, and he's never been a great bet on Mondays to begin with. This will be his 17th start on MNF in his Hall of Fame career, and he's 6-10 ATS in the first 16. As a favorite, he's 4-7. So you can take the Steelers to cover this spread if you'd like, but I'll be over here on the Giants. That was a sentence I can't believe I typed, either, but seriously, I'm betting on the New York Giants. Wow, 2020 just never stops, does it?
Big Ben makes his return on Monday Night Football, where the Steelers are the winningest team. Pittsburgh finished 8-8, but is poised for a much better season. The Giants were 4-12 and brought in a new coaching staff. But New York has a QB prone to turnovers. Daniel Jones had 24 TDs in 13 games, but he was responsible for 11 fumbles and 12 interceptions. He faces a very aggressive Steelers defense that has a strong line. Pittsburgh will get after Jones and force him into a couple of turnovers. The Giants are just 1-10 ATS in their last 11 as a home dog.