Big Time Matchup

Pittsburgh, PA - Rookies when they first met in 2004, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have since led their teams to Super Bowl victories.

Both appear to have their clubs in good position to make runs at another title this year.

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Manning and the New York Giants travel to Heinz Field to take on Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in a matchup of 5-1 teams Sunday.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made the Steelers -3 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on the Steelers -3 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Roethlisberger, the 11th pick in the 2004 draft, got the best of Manning, the top choice that year, on Dec. 18, 2004. The Steelers quarterback recorded his first career 300-yard game, throwing for 316 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in Pittsburgh's 33-30 win at Giants Stadium.

Manning threw for a then-career-high 182 yards and had his first multi-touchdown game in his fifth NFL start, but New York suffered the seventh straight loss in an eight-game skid.

Roethlisberger developed faster than Manning and led Pittsburgh to a Super Bowl victory in 2005, helping the Steelers to three straight road wins in the AFC playoffs en route to the championship. Two seasons later, Manning did the same, guiding the Giants to three road playoff wins before they knocked off New England in the Super Bowl.

Now the fourth-year veterans are eyeing another championship as their first-place teams meet. Pittsburgh is atop the AFC North largely because of a smothering defense, as the Steelers' 89 points allowed is the second-lowest total in the NFL..

Pittsburgh, first in the league in total defense (228.3 yards per game) and pass defense (158.7), is coming off a 38-10 rout of woeful Cincinnati last week. The Steelers held an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing for the fifth time this season, surrendered a season-low 128 passing yards and forced a turnover for the fifth time in six games.

The offense also appears to be coming around with a second consecutive game of at least 375 yards. Mewelde Moore, the third-string running back coming into the season, made his second start of the year in place of an injured Willie Parker and rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a TD pass from Roethlisberger in the first quarter.

Roethlisberger was 17-of-28 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

``It wasn't easy,'' Roethlisberger said. ``Those guys brought a lot of different blitzes. I think they blitzed us every play. That's the way we should play offense. That's us when we're really clicking.''

The Giants weren't clicking offensively last week, but their defense stepped up in a 29-17 home victory over San Francisco. New York forced three turnovers, had its third six-sack game of the season and held the 49ers to 35 yards rushing.

Manning wasn't at his best, but rebounded from a three-interception effort in a loss to Cleveland by not throwing any against the 49ers. He went 16-for-31 for 161 yards and a touchdown.

"We've played some outstanding games, offensively and defensively. Today our defense played well," said Manning, whose team is 5-1 for the first time since 1993 and a half-game ahead in the NFC East. "That's football and you're going to go through all sorts of situations. It's all about finding ways to win, to gut it out. That's what we did.''

The Giants dropped from first to second in total offense but still rank first in rushing at 169.7 yards per game, and their powerful ground game against the Steelers' second-ranked run defense (69.7 ypg) should be one of the key matchups Sunday. New York's Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw combined to run for 118 yards last week.

Moore has helped keep the Steelers' rushing attack formidable in the absence of top back Willie Parker, as he's rushed for 219 yards over the past two weeks. Parker, though, could return Sunday, as he was expected to be back for the Cincinnati game before re-aggravating his sprained left knee five days before.

Whoever handles the rushing duties for Pittsburgh will face a Giants defense that ranks fifth in the league with 84.5 rushing yards allowed per game. New York is yielding 16.8 points per game - sixth overall.

Pittsburgh has other injury problems, as cornerback Bryant McFadden will miss the next month with a broken right arm. Safety Troy Polamalu suffered the seventh concussion of his career on the same play during which McFadden was hurt, but he hasn't been ruled out against New York.

Two other Steelers starters, fullback Carey Davis and nose tackle Casey Hampton, may also play Sunday. Hampton has missed three games with a groin injury, and Davis has sat out the last two with a bad ankle.

Pittsburgh's win in the teams' last meeting in 2004 was just the fourth matchup between the clubs since the start of the 1991 season, with the Giants and Steelers splitting those games. New York's last trip to Pittsburgh came Oct. 14, 1991, a 23-20 Giants victory.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
NY GIANTS is 2-1 against the spread versus PITTSBURGH since 1992
PITTSBURGH is 2-1 straight up against NY GIANTS since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
[CB] Terrell Thomas missed last game, "?" - Hamstring - 10/05/08
[DE] Osi Umenyiora IR - Knee - 08/26/08
[DE] Jerome McDougle missed last game, "?" - Knee - 10/05/08
[WR] Domenik Hixon injured last game %27?%27 - Concussion - 10/05/08
[WR] Plaxico Burress probable - Suspension Served - 10/05/08
[G] Shane Olivea IR - Back - 08/14/08
[K] Lawrence Tynes missed last game, "?" - Knee - 10/05/08
[WR] David Tyree expected to miss at least six weeks. - Knee - 08/26/08
[OT] Kareem McKenzie injured last game %27?%27 - Concussion - 10/05/08
[WR] Dallas Baker injured last game, "?" - Shoulder - 10/06/08
[RB] Rashard Mendenhall IR - Shoulder - 09/30/08
[OG] Kendall Simmons IR - Achilles - 09/30/08
[DT] Casey Hampton missed last game %27?%27 - Groin - 10/05/08
[K] Jeff Reed injured last game, probable - Calf - 10/07/08
[QB] Charlie Batch IR - Collarbone - 08/30/08
[RB] Carey Davis missed last game %27?%27 - Ankle - 10/05/08
[DE] Brett Keisel is "?" - Calf - 10/08/08
(!) [RB] Willie Parker missed last game probable - Knee - 10/05/08
[LB] Andre Frazier missed last game %27?%27 - Cervical Strain - 10/05/08
[P] Daniel Sepulveda IR - Knee - 07/30/08
[DE] Nick Eason missed last game %27?%27 - Groin - 10/05/08

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Posted: 10/22/08 8:00 PM

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