Dallas Cowboys (7-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)
The Cowboys enter this game with the best record in the NFC at 7-1 and rank 2nd in the NFL in first down rate differential. They’ve had a relatively easy schedule thus far, as they rank dead last in strength of schedule, in terms of total opponents’ records, but the Steelers are not nearly as tough of an opponent as this line suggests. This line is at 3 in favor of the home team Pittsburgh Steelers, suggesting these two teams are essentially even, which I disagree with. The Steelers enter this game just 22nd in first down rate differential.
Part of that has been injuries/suspensions, as Pro-Bowl guys like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, defensive end Cameron Heyward have all missed time, but the Steelers also just aren’t as good as they’ve been in recent years. Outside of Bell and Antonio Brown, they’re hurting for skill position talent without Martavis Bryant and Heath Miller, while their defense is subpar even when Heyward is healthy. Even with a relatively easy schedule thus far, the Steelers are far from the toughest game the Cowboys have had thus far, as they’ve played the likes of the Giants, Redskins, Packers, Eagles, and Bengals, all of whom are comparable to or better than the Steelers. The Cowboys are 4-1 in those 5 games.
Not only are the Cowboys significantly better, they’re also a great road team, as a result of their national fanbase. Since 2010, they’ve outscored opponents by 0.96 points per game at home and been outscored by 0.08 points per game on the road, meaning their homefield advantage hasn’t even been worth a point over that time period. They are also 21-12 ATS as road underdogs over that time period. The Steelers are in a good spot with an easy trip to Cleveland on deck and teams are 48-34 ATS since 2008 before being road favorites of 4.5 or more, which the Steelers definitely will be, so this isn’t a huge play, but there’s enough here for me to be confident in the Cowboys at 3 in Pittsburgh.
Dallas Cowboys 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Upset Pick +120
Pick against the spread: Dallas +3