NFL Week One Tips: Improving Washington can overcome depleted Steelers

Can Roethlisberger and Brown score faster than their defense concedes?
Can Roethlisberger and Brown score faster than their defense concedes?

Monday Night Football brings us two games which could be packed with excitement, with both likely to go down to the wire. Neil Harvey explains...

"The loss of drug offender Martavis Bryant is damaging. He was Pittsburgh's deep ball threat, forcing defences to back off, so allowing space underneath for Antonio Brown. Bryant's absence undoubtedly removes a fang from Pittsburgh's offensive bite."

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Washington Redskins
Tuesday, 00:10

I'd like to say, straight off the bat, that Gameweek One is in my opinion the most difficult time of the season for predicting games. There is no form to go by (preseason is thoroughly unreliable). And teams have shuffled their rosters during the offseason. So we are effectively running blind. And in this situation, I feel the best thing we can do is ignore the media hype.

For example, everywhere I look I see Pittsburgh's offense being hailed as an irresistible force. A unit that need only play close to its abilities to secure victory. But I don't buy it. Mike Tomlin's side look much like they did last year - when their offense did indeed rack up points, but only as quickly as their defense conceded them.

The loss of drug offender Martavis Bryant is damaging. He was Pittsburgh's deep ball threat, forcing defences to back off, so allowing space underneath for Antonio Brown. Bryant's absence undoubtedly removes a fang from Pittsburgh's offensive bite.

Gunslinger Ben Roethlisberger is also one year older. And at his age (34), those years start to seem like dog years, with Big Ben sustaining serious injuries with alarming regularity of late. The absence of running back Le'Veon Bell for the start of the season is also a tremendous loss. And while DeAngelo Williams has deputised admirably, his feet don't fill Bell's shoes.

But while the Steelers' best may be behind them, Washington look to be on the rise, after a 9-7 campaign that surprised many but hinted at greater things to come. Kirk Cousins is young, but has been around long enough to now establish himself as an NFL force. Matt Jones brings raw energy and brute force to the ground game. Jordan Reed is emerging as a genuine star at tight end. While in DeSean Jackson, the Skins' have that crucial element of experience, with the veteran receiver fit again and looking dangerous.

Pittsburgh have the bigger names. But Washington have the upside, and home advantage. So with Week One games often hard to call, it's the Redskins who to me look the smarter call.

Recommended Bet:

3pts Washington to beat Pittsburgh @ 2.506/4



Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
Tuesday, 03:30

The Rams have a new home and a new quarterback. But neither will play a part in Week One. Jeff Fishers' side will start their campaign without number one overall draft pick Jared Goff, after he was surprisingly declared a healthy scratch for this season's opening instalment of Monday Night Football.

That leaves LA's passing game in the underwhelming hands of Case Keenum. And he'll be targetting an equally ho-hum possie of receivers that include the likes of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick. So with tight end Jared Cook having seen the light and headed to Green Bay, that leaves an awful lot riding on the Rams running game to produce.

Luckily for them though, they have a genuine superstar on hand in Todd Gurley. Gurley was imperious last season, as he topped a thousand yards - earning him a string of rookie accolades in the process. But can an NFL sophomore shoulder that much responsibilty? Or will the Rams suffer a week one battering?

The 49ers mind you have problems of their own. Colin Kaepernick has been doing more talking than playing recently. And consequently it's former Jags flop Blaine Gabbert who's tasked with steering the 49ers ship away from last year's wreck of a 5-11 season.

Carlos Hyde will try to run in straight lines but is unlikely to penetrate what is a stout Rams defensive line. Indeed it's likely there'll be more pressure coming from the other direction, with Alec Ogletree tipped to wreak havoc on a weak 49ers O-line from his new position of middle linebacker. 

The LA defense has the definite edge. While San Francisco look slightly desperate and unpredictable. Both of last year's games were won by the road team. And both were low scoring - yielding just 33 and 35 points. Hence the qoute of more than 40 points here looks too high. especially given that both teams scored on average less than 18 points a game last season.

With the two passing units looking as bad as each, a groudn battle should ensue - eating up the clock. Consequently, both field units could see plenty of action. And so my fancy is that this game will be decided by no more than a field goal.

Recommended Bets:

2pts Total Points Under 42.5 @ 2.001/1
1pt LA Rams to win by 1-6pts @ 3.55/2
1pt San Francisco to win by 1-6 pts @ 3.613/5

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