Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-4)
Week 3, the Steelers traveled to play a significantly inferior team, missing two of their top defenders, and yet were still heavily bet by the public as road favorites. They lost outright and a lot of people lost a lot of money. 3 weeks later, the Steelers have had a bye, a 2 point win at home over an Eagles team that once again lost the turnover battle, and the Steelers are in the same exact situation. Apparently the public hasn’t learned because Pittsburgh is once again being heavily bet by the public (and you know how much I love to bet against heavy public leans).
The Steelers absolutely suck on the road against bad teams outside of the division under Mike Tomlin. They are 3-12 ATS as 3+ road favorites outside of the division since Tomlin took over in 2007. They just don’t really seem to care about these games. On top of the Oakland loss, the Steelers won by just 4 in Kansas City against Tyler Palko last year and by just 3 in Indianapolis against Curtis Painter and the eventually 2-14 Colts last year, so don’t tell me the Titans can’t cover this game because they’re not talented enough. None of those teams were either.
On top of that, they will be missing Troy Polamalu and probably LaMarr Woodley. Both were lost last week and on a short week, the odds are really against them being healthy enough to play by Thursday Night. Polamalu has already been ruled out. Against Oakland, both Polamalu and James Harrison were out. Woodley’s loss is easily equal to the loss of Harrison (at this stage in their respective careers), while Polamalu’s injury is the one that really hurts.
Excluding last week, during which Polamalu left in the middle, the Steelers are now 7-8 since 2009 without him, allowing 21.6 points per game and 27-8, allowing 14.4 points per game, with him. That’s not all him, but a lot of that is him. He’s their only irreplaceable defensive player and his mere presence can disrupt passing plays and running plays. Last week, the Steelers had held the Eagles scoreless on 3 drives before Polamalu went out and ended up giving up 14 points on their next 5 drives. His absence will be huge.
Besides, we’re getting a good amount of line value with the Titans. The Steelers have an even yards per play differential and that’s not taking into account their current injury situation or their general struggles on the road against inferior non-divisional teams. If you take the difference of these two team’s yards per play differentials, you get .7. An old gambling formula says to divide that by .15 and add 3 points either way to get the “real” line. Given that, this line should be -1.5 in favor of Pittsburgh, so we’re getting 4.5 points of line value with the Titans at +6, at the very least.
Besides, as strange as it may seem, the Titans are in a good spot coming off back-to-back losses by 20+. Teams in that situation are 33-16 ATS since 2002 and the Titans covered in this exact situation week 3, pulling the home upset over the superior Lions, who were also, not surprisingly, heavily publicly bet. Teams in that situation tend to be both desperate and undervalued and I believe the Titans are both.
Despite the Steelers’ injuries and a lackluster home performance, this line has moved 2 points from -4 to -6 since last week, most likely because of how bad the Titans looked in Minnesota. Meanwhile, at 1-4, this is really the Titans’ last stand. Remember, this team won 9 games last year, so they probably had high hopes for this season. Betting against an undervalued, desperate team is never a good idea.
Tennessee is also a home team on Thursday Night. Home teams are 67-48 ATS on Thursday Night since 1989. Traveling on a short week is rarely a recipe for success. Teams are just 21-23 ATS as home dogs, which makes sense because proven, veteran teams are often much better prepared for a short week like this, which cancels out any advantage of not having to travel.
However, while Pittsburgh is a proven, veteran team, if they have trouble getting up for bad, non-divisional teams on the road normally, why would they be any more likely to do so on Thursday Night, especially with a key divisional match up in Cincinnati on the schedule next. They failed to cover last year on Thursday game and that was at HOME against divisional Cleveland. Meanwhile, while home dogs typically don’t have a big advantage on Thursday Night, home dogs are 18-11 ATS this season, which is something. In this situation, St. Louis covered last week.
This is at the very least a co-pick of the week. It might be my only pick of the week, but it’s at least one of them. I haven’t made a 5+ unit play since week 3, opting to go with three 4-unit co-picks of the week in each of the last 2 weeks instead of a 5-unit pick of the week. I went 5-1 in those games and I was also 2-1 in picks of the week from weeks 1-3, so I’m feeling really confident and want to make at least one 5 unit pick this week. There may be more, but this one is one I really like.
Pittsburgh sucks in this situation and won’t be any better on a short week, especially with a key divisional game on the horizon. They’re also missing two very key defenders, which this spread doesn’t take into account and they’re not playing well overall anyway. Tennessee, meanwhile, is both undervalued and desperate in a “last stand” game at home on a Thursday Night. Finally, we’re getting significant line value and a chance to bet against a heavy public lean. There’s really nothing I don’t like about Tennessee +6 this week. I’m also putting a unit on the under because the under is 67-50 on Thursday night since 1989, including 4-0. Teams are often unprepared offensively on a short week.
Public lean: Pittsburgh (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Tennessee covers)
Tennessee Titans 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 Upset Pick +200
Pick against spread: Tennessee +6 (-110) 5 units
Over/Under: Under 42.5