Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
After the Steelers’ loss last week, I was expecting them to be dogs here, especially after the Cowboys big win as dogs last week. There was no early line last week because Ben Roethlisberger’s status was still in doubt so I didn’t know really what to expect in terms of this line. I was expecting them to be dogs, though dogs of less than 3, but I still was expecting to take them for a big play for a variety of reasons.
The first is that the Cowboys have really struggled as home favorites since they opened the new Cowboy Stadium in 2009, going 9-18 ATS. They’ve already lost to the Redskins and Bears in this situation this year and barely beat the Buccaneers and the crappy Eagles and Browns. Meanwhile, the Steelers are very good in the Mike Tomlin era off a loss as favorites, as well coached teams generally do. They are 13-7 ATS, including 3-0 ATS as dogs.
Meanwhile, teams are 105-62 ATS as dogs before being favorites since 2011 and the Steelers host the Bengals next week and will be favored. The Cowboys also suck after week 13 in the Tony Romo era, going 11-20 ATS in week 14 or later. They won in this spot last week, but they were playing purely with emotion after what happened the day before with Josh Brent and Jerry Brown. Now that they’ve had a week for it to settle in, they could really struggle like the Colts did after they beat the Packers and like the Chiefs did last week. The Steelers are also healthier than they were last week with LaMarr Woodley returning and David DeCastro making his season debut. The Cowboys could be missing top receiver Dez Bryant.
However, it appears the Steelers are favored by 1.5, which changes things. The Cowboys are now home dogs, a situation they are actually 2-1 ATS in since 2009. The Steelers are 5-15 ATS as non-divisional road dogs in the Mike Tomlin era. The Cowboys are also now the ones who are dogs before being favorites as they are dogs here, but they are expected to be home favorites for the Saints next week. The line value has also shifted in their favor because the real line is a pick em, based on the net points per drive method. That does hold up to DVOA, as well. Finally, the Steelers are publicly backed (though not a huge public lean) and the public always loses money in the long run.
I’m still taking the Steelers. They are still good off a loss as favorites, even as favorites. The Cowboys still struggle to cover at home. They may be good as home dogs, but it’s a limited sample size. They also still struggle in December and they could be in a bad spot now that the Josh Brent and Jerry Brown situation has settled in. They may be missing Dez Bryant as well.
The Steelers, on the other hand, might be healthier than they’ve been all season. This will be the first time all season that Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, and LaMarr Woodley will play in the same game. Ike Taylor may be out, which hurts, but this is still the healthiest they’ve been all season sadly. The real line doesn’t take that into account, so we still may be getting line value with the Steelers. While the Steelers struggle as non-divisional road dogs, they are 1-1 ATS in that situation off a loss. This is a must win off a loss, so I can’t see them overlooking the Cowboys like they might in another situation. Teams are 99-62 ATS since 2002 as non-conference favorites before being divisional favorites.
Finally, while the Steelers aren’t dogs, the line is still below 3 and since I would have loved the Steelers as dogs, it doesn’t make sense to just take the Cowboys because the Steelers are now favorites of less than 3. It’s just not a significant play anymore. This reminds me of Giants/Cowboys a few weeks ago, when I wanted to take the Giants for a big play, expecting them to be dogs, but they ended up being road favorites. I still took them anyway for a small play and they covered.
Public lean: Pittsburgh (60% range)
Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Dallas Cowboys 17
Pick against spread: Pittsburgh -1.5 (-110) 2 units