The NFL is back with a bang and after our first upset of the season on Thursday night, we now have our first full Sunday session. The 6pm televised match up is from the Acrisure Stadium (Heinz Field), where the Pittsburgh Steelers host the San Francisco 49ers. We’ve previewed this one and given you our suggested bets.
The San Francisco 49ers (10/13)are one of the favourites for Super Bowl LVIII glory and justifiably so.
But for injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo (now departed for the Raiders) and then stand in QB, Brock Purdy, the 49ers may have gone all the way last season on the back of an amazing defensive unit
Purdy has long since shed the ‘Mr Irrelevant’ tag, with his performances towards the back end of last year, going a perfect 5 and 0 in the regular season, and then was instrumental in playoff victories over Seattle and Dallas.
A cruel injury to his right elbow in the NFC Championship game against the Eagles, meant Purdy was an impotent weapon, only able to hand the ball off to running backs.
Now fully fit and with a full complement of attacking options at his disposal, can the 23-year-old take his team all the way this campaign.
The first team standing in their way is the Pittsburgh Steelers (11/10), who will be playing in front of a packed Heinz Field on opening night.
Where Purdy appears to have answered all the questions about his ability to lead the team, the same cannot really be said for the Steelers QB, Kenny Pickett.
Mike Tomlin appears to have placed his faith in the 25-year-old University of Pittsburgh graduate but his first season record wasn’t the best.
Despite a 7-5 record with the side, The Steelers didn’t make the playoffs and Pickett threw more interceptions than passing touchdowns for the franchise.
One gets the feeling, it’s now or never for the QB and he needs to make a flying start to this season. He better stay away from a certain Mr Bosa.
Defensive End Nick Bosa signed a new massive 5-year $170m contract extension this week, which ended all doubts as to whether he would line up for this one.
Elsewhere, there are doubts about tight end George Kittle and cornerback Chavarius Ward, who were both listed as questionable to play on Friday.
For the Steelers, Mike Tomlin has issues with his defensive line, as Larry Ogunjobi is suffering from a foot injury and Cam Heyward has a stomach complaint. Both were limited in the amount of practice they could do this week.
49ers -2.5 Handicap – 20/21
The Steelers had a superb finish to last season, following their bye week, where they were a pitiful 2-6.
They went on to win 7 of their last eight games to finish better than .500 but couldn’t make the playoffs.
However, as impressive as they were at the back end of the season, I don’t see them being a match for the 49ers.
The defensive ability of Bosa and Fred Warner will be a nightmare for Kenny Pickett and the attacking options of RB Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Elijah Mitchell, Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, should see them score plenty of points at the other end of the field.
Christian McCaffrey 74.5+ rushing yards and to score a TD – 14/5
CMC looks like a man reborn in the Bay area, reaching the sort of form he had once displayed for the Carolina Panthers.
Doubts still remain about his bodies longevity and how much punishment he can take before breaking down but he looks to be loving life in a 49ers helmet.
McCaffrey has evolved into a genuine dual threat running back and is just as dangerous when receiving the ball as when carrying it.
It would be no hyperbole to suggest he is the leagues finest running back at present and I can see him having a night on Sunday.