After Thursday night’s win over the New York Giants, the New England Patriots are 6-0 and lead the AFC.
Kansas City, behind the skill of Patrick Mahomes are joint second on 4-1. Somehow the Buffalo Bills are right there with them, but the rest of the conference is a bit of a hot mess.
On Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers have a chance to take a step in the right direction at the Dignity Health Sports Park. The west coast side might not catch the Chiefs in the AFC West, but a Wildcard spot is not out of the question.
The Baltimore Ravens lead the AFC North with three wins, they notched up their second loss last Sunday and Mike Tomlin’s side will feel the division is there to be captured. However, they will have to do it with their third-string quarterback.
Chargers to win by 1 to 6 points – 10/3
Ben Roethilsperger is out for the season, and now after a horrible blow to the head last weekend in the 26-23 loss to the Ravens, Mason Rudolph will also be missing. Step forward Devlin Hodges.
The Rookie completed seven of his nine passes for 68 yards and ran the ball twice for 20, but playing a full game is a completely different ball game. He won’t have Jaylen Samuels or James Washington out wide, putting a lot of pressure on Juju Smith-Schuster and James Conner.
Vance McDonald was also predicted to have a huge season, but the tight end is still trying to get back to full fitness.
It’s hard not to fancy the Chargers and Philip Rivers to come away with the victory. They have the likes of Melvin Ingram, Desmond King and Joey Bosa on defence, plus the double-headed monster of Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon in the backfield.
Their defence is ranked eighth in the NFL against the pass and 11th overall. Far from the toughest defence Hodges could have faced in his first start, but dangerous enough to trouble the pass-caller on every possession.
Unless it’s the Patriots, the Steelers have kept every defeat close and although the home side are favourites, the visitors have a defence capable of keeping the game competitive. Don’t expect the Bolts to pull away.
Steelers to score under 17 points – 10/11
Only on the opening night of the season have the Steelers failed to score 20 points, but Sunday feels like a much tougher challenge. Another new quarterback, a star receiver failing to hit the expected heights and important players missing from the line-up.
Offensively, the away side are already ranked 25th in average passing yards at 213.6 and 29th with only 67 rushing yards per game.
From what we’ve seen from Hodges and this stuttering attack, they are going to have to earn every yard.
Through five games, the Chargers are conceding, on average, just 18.8 points. Until proven wrong by the Samford graduate, there’s no reason to believe the Steelers can match this return.
Melvin Gordon to score an anytime touchdown – Evens
Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott held out for new contracts and missed games.
Melvin Gordon’s patience may not have handed the running back a new deal, but he now has another 10 games to show his importance to the team and tease potential suitors with the player they could pay next season when he becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent.
Against the Broncos he finished with 38 yards from scrimmage. He ran 12 times and caught four passes. Sunday will see Anthony Lynn increase no.25’s workload and we could finally get glimpses of the real Melvin Gordon.
Ekeler will remain a bigger threat on third-down, but the Chargers ground game is due to go through their returning back. With the Steelers ranked 21st against the run and Gordon getting back to 100% and looking to grab the headlines for on-field reasons, he is going to be trouble all evening.
He may even be worth a sniff to close the show by scoring the last touchdown at 9/2.
* All odds correct at time of posting.