2012 NFL Week 5 Picks: Steelers over Eagles

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IOctober 2, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers huddles up with his team during their game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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Game of the Week: Eagles at Steelers

A crucial contest in the Keystone State is too enticing to pass up, as two squads harboring championship aspirations squaring off in the Steel City serves as our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.

The "City of Brotherly Love" has maintained an oxymoronic stigma for quite some time, evidenced by such infamous unaffectionate acts as booing Santa Claus and cheering a motionless Michael Irvin. Yet even by their surly standards, Philadelphia's impatience with the Eagles has been irrational. Granted, the excess of turnovers in the early going was disconcerting (highlighted, er, lowlighted by a beatdown in the desert at the hands of the Cardinals), and Andy Reid's time management will drive the most rational of supporters berserk. Nevertheless, most pigskin supporters would be thrilled with a 2-1 mark, a sentiment that was not shared by the Philly fanbase.

A stirring 19-17 defeat of the defending Super Bowl champs should alleviate some of this worry, as the Eagles deployed a sound, if not showy, game plan versus the G-Men, transitioning from the air assault on display in the season's opening weeks to a more ground-based initiative. The switch in strategies paid off, as Philly racked up 191 rushing yards in its conquest.

More importantly, the time of possession advantage kept the explosive Giants offense off the field, helping correlate to New York's struggles of lighting up the scoreboard. The landscape of the NFL has undoubtedly transitioned from the soil to the sky, but given that Philadelphia is blessed with a backfield of LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick, striking from the turf may be the team's recipe for success.

Duplicating this effort will be an endeavor for Philadelphia, as the Steelers lead the NFL in time of possession as we enter October. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley has elevated Ben Roethlisberger's already stellar play to another stratum in September, as Big Ben has made eight aerial excursions to the end zone in three contests compared to just one pick.

More impressive is Roethlisberger's 68.3 completion percentage, especially robust considering the Miami (OH) product is also averaging over 300 yards per ball game. In his ninth season in the league, the best of Roethlisberger may be yet to come.

Oddly enough, the Black and Yellow have accomplished this offensive onslaught without much semblance of a running game, averaging a league-low 2.6 yards per attempt as starter Rashard Mendenhall has been shelved with offseason ACL surgery. With Mendenhall set to return this weekend, the Steelers offense will be locked and loaded.

The same cannot be said for the Pittsburgh defense, as the availability of All-Pros Troy Polamalu and James Harrison remains uncertain. The Steelers' resistance has been the franchise's bread and butter for almost four decades, but with these two superstars out, the once-vaunted defense has become a so-so unit, conceding 31 or more points in two of the team's three games. As the Eagles are just one of seven crews to hold opponents to under 300 yards of total offense, the susceptibility of the Steelers defense could prove the difference come Sunday.

So who wins the foray of Quaker State foes? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Steelers come out on top 50.9 percent of the time by an average margin of 22-21. For the rest of this week's scores, check below:

NFL Week 5
Matchup Win% Avg Score
Buffalo Bills 28.0 19 Boxscore
at San Francisco 49ers 72.0 26 49ers&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Buffalo+Bills" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Cleveland Browns 34.0 22 Boxscore
at New York Giants 66.0 27 Browns" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Denver Broncos 37.0 25 Boxscore
at New England Patriots 63.0 28 Broncos" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Tennessee Titans 44.0 22 Boxscore
at Minnesota Vikings 56.0 24 Vikings&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Tennessee+Titans" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Philadelphia Eagles 49.1 21 Boxscore
at Pittsburgh Steelers 50.9 22 Simulate Game
Seattle Seahawks 51.9 21 Boxscore
at Carolina Panthers 48.1 20 Seahawks" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Arizona Cardinals 52.3 22 Boxscore
at St. Louis Rams 47.7 20 Simulate Game
Miami Dolphins 56.8 22 Boxscore
at Cincinnati Bengals 43.2 20 Bengals&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Miami+Dolphins" target="_blank">Simulate Game
San Diego Chargers 63.8 29 Boxscore
at New Orleans Saints 36.2 24 Saints&vSeason=2012&vTeam=San+Diego+Chargers" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Baltimore Ravens 72.0 26 Boxscore
at Kansas City Chiefs 28.0 19 Chiefs&vSeason=2012&vTeam=Baltimore+Ravens" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Green Bay Packers 73.0 29 Boxscore
at Indianapolis Colts 27.0 21 Packers" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Atlanta Falcons 74.3 26 Boxscore
at Washington Redskins 25.7 18 Falcons" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Houston Texans 74.5 23 Boxscore
at New York Jets 25.5 15 Texans" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Chicago Bears 78.2 24 Boxscore
at Jacksonville Jaguars 21.8 13 Bears" target="_blank">Simulate Game