PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-1)
at PITTSBURGH STEELERS (1-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Pittsburgh -3, Total: 43
The two Pennsylvania NFL teams square off Sunday at Heinz Field when Pittsburgh hosts Philadelphia.
The Steelers had issues in their two road games losing both games after holding fourth-quarter leads. But they shut down the Jets in their only home tilt and should have S Troy Polamalu (calf) and OLB James Harrison (knee), their two best defensive players, back in the lineup. Michael Vick continues to take a ton of hits. The Eagles have barely eked out their three wins, though last week’s win over the Giants was turnover-free after they gave it away 12 times in their first three games. Philly has gained 400-plus yards of offense in its three wins; the Steelers haven’t allowed 400-plus at home since November 2010, a span of 15 games.
Who will win the battle of Pennsylvania on Sunday? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every NFL game throughout the 2012 season and playoffs.
Vick’s numbers are pretty poor right now, throwing 4 TD and 6 INT (72.7 QB rating). Much of this has to do with him being knocked to the turf a league-most 44 times already. However, his best receiver, Jeremy Maclin, finally appears to be 100 percent recovered from his hip injury he suffered in Week 2, as he is not even on the team’s injury report this week. Maclin’s improved health should also help WR DeSean Jackson see less double-teaming. Maclin’s return to the field last week helped Jackson have a great game against New York, catching six passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. RB LeSean McCoy is dealing with a sore knee, but he will start on Sunday. McCoy is coming off his best game of the season, rushing for 123 yards on 23 carries (5.3 YPC) in the win over the Giants. Defensively, the Eagles have been sound in both defending the pass (207 YPG, 7th in NFL) and also the run (92 YPG, 12th in NFL). However, the team has forced just one turnover in the past two games, after taking away six footballs in the opening two weeks of the season. A couple of key injured defenders should also be ready for this one with CB Nnamdi Asomugha (eye) and S Colt Anderson (knee) both listed as probable.
Ben Roethlisberger has played extremely well in 2012, completing 68.3% of his passes for 904 yards (284 YPG), 8 TD and just one interception. However, the Eagles sacked him eight times when they last met in 2008, and he has already taken nine sacks in his three games this year. Part of that is because of an injury-riddled offensive line, and part of that is because defenses have been teeing off on Roethlisberger because the Steelers are having so much trouble running the football with 65 rushing YPG (3rd-fewest in NFL) on a league-low 2.6 yards per carry. The probable return of Rashard Mendenhall coming off knee surgery can only help. He rushed for 928 yards and 9 TD last season. On defense, Polamalu and Harrison look to shore up a run defense that allowed 119 yards on just 21 carries (5.7 YPC) to Oakland in the last game. Harrison is also one of the better pass rushers on the team, and his absence is a big reason why the Steelers have a mere five sacks in three games. Pittsburgh has been one of the league’ best passing defenses, allowing just 190 yards per game (3rd in NFL), but the team has given up a subpar 48.5% third-down conversion rate.