New England Patriots (0-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
I went 4-3 with my bets last week. The Dolphins/Patriots and Steelers/Bengals games were my two biggest plays that lost, but both games swung significantly on the turnover margin, which is not predictive week-to-week. The Patriots lost by 13 in Miami, but they lost the turnover battle by three and only lost the yards per play battle by 0.18, while winning the first down rate battle by 0.85%, which are both significantly more predictive week-to-week than turnover margins. The Steelers, meanwhile, needed a +5 turnover margin and an injury to the Bengals’ long snapper to win by three in overtime, in a game in which they lost the first down rate battle by 11.36% and the yards per play battle by 0.22.
Coming into the season, I thought the Patriots were an underrated team and the Steelers were an overrated team and last week did nothing to change my opinion on that significantly, given how the games were decided. Both plays likely would have hit (Bengals -6.5 and Patriots +3.5) if both teams played turnover neutral football. If anything, the Steelers are now more overrated and the Patriots are more underrated, with this line not moving significantly from the early line a week ago, favoring the visiting Patriots by only a couple points, despite the Steelers losing edge defender TJ Watt, arguably the most valuable defender in the league.
The general consensus seems to be that they can’t believe the Patriots are favored at all, as the public is all over the underdog, but the Patriots are at least a decent team that should be favored by a significant amount, even on the road, against a team with one of the worst offenses in the league and a defense that will be significantly worse without it’s most important player. My calculated line has the Patriots as 6.5 point favorites, so I like them a lot in a game in which they basically just need to win to cover, especially since the Steelers could be in a look ahead spot, after an exhausting overtime win last week, now facing an 0-1 opponent, with a divisional Thursday night game against the Browns on deck next week. This is my top play this week, hoping for better turnover luck than I had in these two teams’ games last week.
New England Patriots 23 Pittsburgh Steelers 16
Pick against the spread: New England -2
Confidence: Pick of the Week