Saints To Secure NFC’s Top Seed Against Pittsburgh

The New Orleans Saints can secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC Playoffs by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Superdome on Sunday.

The Saints notched their 12th win of the campaign on Monday against the Carolina Panthers in a low-scoring contest on the road. Drew Brees and company were not quite at their best for the second game on the bounce, but the defense rose to the occasion to shut down Cam Newton.

Newton was ailing with a shoulder injury, but there was still talent on the Panthers offense that only mustered seven points. It is a sign of a good team that is playing complementary football to win when the supposed strength of the Saints is not firing on all cylinders.

Sean Payton’s men need just one win to secure the number one seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. However, Pittsburgh will provide a test of their mettle and their defense once again with their talented receiving corps.

The Steelers earned a huge win over the New England Patriots last week, holding off a comeback attempt from Tom Brady on the goalline. Mike Tomlin’s men remain in position to reach the playoffs although the Baltimore Ravens are providing pressure in the AFC North. They cannot afford to slip up on the road against the Saints.

The Saints are closing in on the NFC's top seed

New Orleans Saints

The Saints have been outstanding on offense since the start of the season, but worryingly for Payton they have been out of rhythm in their last three matches. The Dallas Cowboys limited them to 10 points, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers held them down for three quarters. Carolina were able to stymie Brees and company, who could only score one touchdown in their victory. Brees had thrown only two interceptions during the campaign before their three-week spell on the road. His statistics have taken a decline over the last month, making uncharacteristic errors in the process.

A criticism of his play in his career has been that he has been less effective outdoors, with the last couple of games highlighting those deficiencies. Brees has been excellent in home conditions this term, making it imperative that the Saints get over the line and secure the number one seed.

New Orleans have been reliant on the form of Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas throughout the campaign. It’s a tough ask for two players to carry the offense alone. Ted Ginn Jr’s return from injury will help, but the Saints need a third option to stand up and be counted at some point over the next month to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2009 campaign.

The defense has been the salvation of the team during the offense’s woes. Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport have been stout on the line, while the secondary have been making plays with regularity. New Orleans’ defense needs a stellar effort against Roethlisberger and company.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh notched their first win over the Patriots since 2011, fending off Brady and company on four plays inside the final 20 seconds. Without starting running James Conner, Jaylen Samuels was trusted to run the ball and he carved up New England’s defense on the ground.

The Steelers have continued to have success at the running back position even without the presence of All-Pro Le’Veon Bell this term – which speaks volumes about the quality of their offensive line. They’ve been outstanding protecting Roethlisberger all season along with creating holes for Conner and last week Samuels to run through.

Against the Saints they will have to be flawless to give their quarterback time to connect downfield. Antonio Brown scored a touchdown against the Patriots, but he was held in check for the majority of the contest as was Juju Smith-Schuster. It will not be easy for both players to bounce back, although they’re more then capable and will have to have big days to keep pace with New Orleans’ home offense.

Roethlisberger has been up and down throughout the season. He threw two interceptions against New England to Duron Harmon and cannot afford to make the same mistakes at the Superdome. The Steelers’ defense bailed him out last week, but he cannot continue to make multiple errors, especially against quality teams.

Pittsburgh were able to get the better of Brady and now have to limit Brees and company. The Saints’ offense like the Patriots has been inconsistent of late, although the Steelers cannot afford to rest on their laurels, requiring another impressive performance.

Head to Head

Games Played: 15 New Orleans Saints: 8 Pittsburgh Steelers: 7

The Saints hold a slight edge in the matchups between the two sides, although that has been aided by winning the last two meetings. New Orleans recorded a comfortable victory over the Steelers in their last match at Heinz Field in the 2014 campaign.

Brees and company put 35 points on the board as the quarterback threw five strikes into the endzone, and although Roethlisberger threw late touchdowns, the 35-32 scoreline was not as close as suggested. The last contest at the Superdome was also another comfortable win for New Orleans as Payton’s men controlled the game before a late strike from Brees to Lance Moore put it away.

Betting Options

The Saints have not been perfect in recent weeks, but in their last two games they’ve done enough to get the job done. They’re 5-1 at home this term, losing only to the Buccaneers on the opening day of the season. Brees is a different quarterback inside the Superdome compared to travelling on the road and it would be no surprise to seem him dissect Pittsburgh’s defense with ease. The Steelers ended a four-game losing streak against New England last week.

However, they’re not good enough to take that form on the road against one of the best teams in the NFL. Back the Saints to wrap up the number one seed in the NFC playoff race at odds of -250   with TopBet. Given the way both teams have been playing the Steelers on a +3.5 spread could be worth the odds of +120   with 888Sport. Their offense might give them a slight edge to make it a close contest. The over/under line for total points scored by the two teams combined has been set at 53 by BetOnline – back the over at -106 .

Tips Summary

New Orleans Saints To Beat Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday 23rd December 2018 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: -250

Pittsburgh Steelers +3.5 Spread
Sunday 23rd December 2018 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: +120

Over 53 Total Points Scored
Sunday 23rd December 2018 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: -106

Ben Roethlisberger
Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints
NFL
Pittsburgh Steelers

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