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Old 01-09-2009, 06:35 AM   #1
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Default ACCUSCORE ANALYSIS: Chargers at Steelers

ACCUSCORE ANALYSIS: Chargers at Steelers

By Stephen Oh, Special to the Union-Tribune
6:53 p.m. January 8, 2009

AccuScore runs 10,000 computer simulations of NFL games, one play at a time, to project likely outcomes. Here is its assessment of Sunday's Chargers game against the Steelers.

The Steelers and Chargers played a bizarre 11-10 game in Week 11. A lot has changed since that game. The Chargers have won five straight, LT is hurt, Darren Sproles is excelling and the defense looks like the Chargers of past seasons.

The Steelers, meanwhile, have won six of their past seven games, but Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a concussion and there's always the question of whether bye week rest is better than playing and keeping momentum like the Chargers have.

So even though much has changed since Week 11, AccuScore expects Sunday's playoff game to be close and low-scoring just like Week 11. Oddsmakers have made the Steelers a solid 6-point favorite, but AccuScore forecasts a closer game, with Pittsburgh winning 60 percent of simulations by an average of just three points.


The Steelers defense has been phenomenal, allowing opposing rushers just 3.3 yards per carry. The strong Steelers linebackers make it highly unlikely that Sproles has anywhere near another 100-yard rushing game. The good news for Chargers fans is Sproles does not need to repeat last week's performance for the team to win. In simulations in which Sproles has at least 50 rushing yards the Chargers pull slightly ahead, winning 51.5 percent of these simulations.

However, if Sproles is shut down or gets hurt by the physical Steelers defense and is held under 50 rushing yards, the Chargers chances are less than half of what they are if he has a good game.

Sproles' impact............SD win%

50-plus yds. rushing........51.5%

Below 50 yds. rushing.....24.1%


Back in Week 11, Nate Kaeding missed a 42-yard field goal that in hindsight might have won the game for San Diego.

Kaeding is just 4-for-9 this season from 40 yards out or more. In 2006 and 2007 he was excellent from 40 and out, with a combined accuracy of 16-for-20 (80 percent).

AccuScore ran two alternative simulations. The first using only Kaeding's 2008 statistics and the other using only his stats from 2006-07. There's a 10 percentage point swing between the two scenarios. It will be crucial for San Diego for Kaeding to be perfect today.

Nate Kaeding......SD win%....Score

Baseline..................40%.......Pit 21-18

2008 stats...............34%.......Pit 22-16

2006-07 stats..........44%........Pit 22-20


The Steelers' poor offensive line combined with Roethlisberger's penchant for holding onto the ball a little too long bodes well for the Chargers. Their pass rush sacked Peyton Manning only once last weekend, but it was a game-changing play and they effectively pressured Manning throughout the game.

In simulations in which the Chargers sack Roethlisberger two or more times, the Chargers increase their chances from 40 percent to 44 percent. If they have three or more sacks they pull virtually even to 48 percent.

This game should be close and the Chargers can pull off the upset if Sproles has a decent game, Kaeding is accurate from 40+ and the defense can pressure Roethlisberger.
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