- The Titans rank No. 1 in the NFL in offensive success rate. The Steelers rank No. 1 in defensive success rate.
Pittsburgh vs. Tennessee brings us a matchup of two 5-0 teams, pitting one of the game’s most efficient offenses versus perhaps the league’s best defense. Tennessee has carried over their remarkable late-2019 run into 2020, leading the NFL in offensive success rate thanks to a creative play-action passing game off Derrick Henry’s hard running, making them a difficult offense to defend.
But the Steelers present a stiff test. Pittsburgh likely has the league’s best defensive line, a group that laps the field as the league’s best run-stuffing unit and also carries the league’s best adjusted sack rate. Henry will have a tough go of it in this matchup, and Tennessee is undermanned along the offensive line with standout left tackle Taylor Lewan lost for the season last week.
That significant loss comes on the heels of Tennessee letting its other key offensive tackle from 2019, Jack Conklin, leave via free agency. The Titans haven’t really felt the hit of losing Conklin so far in 2020, in part because of decent play from 2019 reserve Dennis Kelly. But they are now without both starting tackles from their 2019 run of success, and will start career backup Ty Sambrailo against the fearsome Pittsburgh front in Week 7.
The Steelers had their own significant injury last week, as linebacker and leading tackler Devin Bush was lost for the season. But while Bush was a tackle machine, he wasn’t necessarily a core piece of this defense, grading out as an average player at PFF. The strength is along the defensive line, and Tennessee will have their hands full trying to stop T.J. Watt, Cameron Heyward, and company.
On the other side of the ball, neither the Steelers’ offense nor the Titans’ defense has been particularly great so far this year. But Pittsburgh has mostly been making due without wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who has been in and out of the lineup with multiple injuries. Rookie Chase Claypool has been a breakout star over the past few weeks, and with Johnson expected back this week Pittsburgh has it’s full weaponry on the outside. Tennessee has been good at limiting explosive plays in the passing game thus far in 2020, but they have allowed the league’s third highest success rate on passes, and I expect the Steelers to find success through the air.
This game should have a playoff atmosphere as the AFC’s last two unbeaten teams jockey for the top spot in the conference, and it brings us a ton of intriguing matchups. Tennessee’s offense has been near perfect so far, and they’ve had to be, as they won their first three games by 3 or fewer points and came from behind last week to beat Houston by 6 in overtime. They’ve been especially great in late-game situations so far in 2020, but in Week 7 they’ll face their stiffest test to date. I like the Steelers to create enough havoc along the defensive line to get away with a road victory.
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Steelers ML @ +110
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We're onto Week 7 of the NFL season with the Ravens, Dolphins, Colts and Vikings all on bye-weeks. We have some divisional games this week including the Bengals meeting the Browns and Washington facing a depleted Cowboys. The game of the weekend is arguably Titans vs. Steelers, with both teams being hugely impressive. Elsewhere we'll see Jon Gruden face his old team, the Buccaneers on Sunday Night football and the Rams face the Bears in primetime on Monday Night Football.
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