Two historic AFC rivals meet this coming Sunday at Heinz Field when the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) host the Oakland Raiders (5-4). The Steelers of course are coming off an embarrassing beat-down by the New England Patriots this past Sunday. The Raiders meanwhile will be fresh off their bye week and looking to extend their winning streak to four games. SB Nation's odds partner, Odds Shark, has Pittsburgh as 9-point favorites (+104), with the O/U set at 41 points. (BoDog has the Steelers as 7.5-point favorites (+100).
That's an interesting disparity between the lines. Nine points seems quite high, but even at 7.5 points, the money looks to be coming in on Oakland. That shouldn't be too surprising, I suppose. This may be a matchup of teams heading in opposite directions. With all the injuries sustained by the Steelers, they perhaps have played their best football of the year already. The Raiders meanwhile look to be getting their legs underneath them after a slow start to the year.
The Raiders have won their past two meetings against the Steelers, both in post-Super Bowl years for Pittsburgh. The first was in 2006 when Oakland beat the Steelers despite not gaining even 100 yards of total offense. Last year, the Raiders rallied to beat Pittsburgh with 21 fourth quarter points, punctuated by a Bruce Gradkowski touchdown to Louis Murphy with 9 seconds left.
I'd be inclined to say that Oakland is a much better play than is Pittsburgh except for one small but important fact: the Raiders' primary strength is rushing the football, and that just so happens to be what Pittsburgh's defense is still the best in the NFL at stopping, even with all the injuries they're dealing with. In all likelihood, the Raiders will need Jason Campbell to play well in order for Oakland to win. If the Steelers don't do a better job offensively than they have in recent weeks though, the Raiders may not need a Tom Brady-like performance from Campbell in order to win.
So, for now, I'd say hang tight and see where this line moves throughout the week. There looks to be too much variability at the moment. If you're inclined to take Pittsburgh, my guess is you'll be able to take a better position than 7.5 or 9 points later in the week.