New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (9-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5-1)

For the second straight year, the Patriots have lost in Miami the week before a critical late season matchup with the Steelers. Unlike last year, when the Patriots were outplayed pretty much from start to finish in Miami, this year they played well enough to win, losing on arguably the craziest walk off touchdown in recent memory. The Patriots bounced back in Pittsburgh last year and I expect the same from them this year. That’s typically what they do after a loss anyway, going 49-25 ATS in the Bill Belichick era after a loss, with just 5 instances of back-to-back losses in the past 10 seasons. That record is 27-5 ATS as underdogs or favorites of less than 3 and they are 62-31 ATS as underdogs or favorites of less than 3 overall since 2000.

The Patriots have not played well on the road this season, but home/road disparities tend to be random more than anything. For example, prior to this season, the Patriots were 14-1 in their previous 2 seasons on the road, only losing last year in Miami. Pittsburgh is a place where the Patriots have had a lot of success all-time anyway and the Steelers have not played as well in recent weeks. Running back James Conner could return this week, but even if he does both he and Ben Roethlisberger will be playing hurt. I have this line calculated at -3 and this is a situation where the Patriots usually thrive, so they’re a strong bet if you can get them at less than 3. Even at -3, they have a good chance to at worst push.

New England Patriots 34 Pittsburgh Steelers 27

Pick against the spread: New England -2.5

Confidence: High

Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4-1) at Oakland Raiders (2-10)

I’ve mentioned this a couple times this season already, but the Steelers historically come out flat on the road as big favorites against a non-divisional opponent. We’ve already seen the Steelers lose in Denver and almost lose in Jacksonville this season, but this actually dates back years. Since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007, the Steelers are 7-20 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of more than a field goal and they are 5-16 ATS as road favorites of more than 4.5 since Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year in 2004.

We lost some line value in this game in the past week, with the Steelers going from 12.5-point favorites on the early line down to 10-point favorites this week, as a result of the Raiders playing the Chiefs close, the Steelers losing to the Chargers at home, and heavy sharp action on the Raiders this week, but we’re still getting enough points to play with for Oakland to be worth a bet, especially with feature back James Conner out for the Steelers.

The Raiders obviously have issues, but I have this line calculated at Pittsburgh -7, even before taking into account their struggles in this spot historically. Making this an even tougher spot for the Steelers is the fact that they have New England after this game, so the Steelers almost definitely aren’t going to be fully focused on the Raiders this week. I expect them to come out flat and maybe even let the Raiders take a halftime lead before eventually pulling out a relatively close victory in the second half. The Raiders are worth a small bet as long as this line is double digits.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Oakland Raiders 17

Pick against the spread: Oakland +10

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)

Both of these teams have had strong seasons, but the Chargers have been a little better. They rank 5th in point differential at +88 and 2nd in first down rate differential at +7.03%, while the Steelers rank 7th in point differential at +67 and 4th in first down rate differential at +4.64%. The big difference is the amount of blowout wins the Chargers have gotten, with 6 of their 8 wins coming by at least a touchdown. The Steelers, meanwhile, have just 5 wins by more than a touchdown in their last 20 games, dating back to last season.

The Steelers have had a tougher schedule, with a combined opponents’ record of 49%, as opposed to 44% for the Chargers, but the Chargers schedule has been tougher than that suggests, as they have next to no homefield advantage in Los Angeles. In 5 games away from Los Angeles this season, the Chargers are 5-0 straight up (4-1 ATS) with an average margin of victory of 11.6 points per game.

This is a trend that actually dates back to their final few years in San Diego, when they frequently had large visiting crowds, as they are 33-19-3 ATS away from home since 2012. The Chargers are also at an advantage as a west coast team playing an east coast team at night. Teams cover at about a 65% rate in that spot all-time, regardless of where the game takes place, as western teams have internal clocks that are more suited for playing at night than eastern teams.

The Chargers have some injuries, with running back Melvin Gordon joining every down linebacker Denzel Perryman and rotational defensive tackles Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane on the sideline. The loss of Gordon is the biggest one, but the Chargers have good depth at the running back position. They also got stud edge rusher Joey Bosa back from injury a couple weeks ago and with him at full strength that should more than cancel out their other injuries, as he’s one of their best players. The Steelers, meanwhile, get stud defensive end Stephon Tuitt back from injury, but they lose safety Morgan Burnett again and he was noticeably missed when he was out earlier this season.

Despite all of this, this line suggests the Steelers are the better of these two teams, favoring them by more than a field goal at home. Given the Chargers’ slight statistical advantage and the advantage they have playing at night, I think this line should be closer to even, giving us good line value, as about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. The Chargers are a smart pick against the spread this week and have a decent shot to pull the straight up upset.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 Pittsburgh Steelers 30 Upset Pick +155

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +3.5

Confidence: High

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2-1) at Denver Broncos (4-6)

The Steelers have traditionally disappointed as big road favorites outside of the division, going 7-19 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of 3+ since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach in 2007, frequently looking flat, especially early in games. We saw this last week when the Steelers trailed 16-0 late in the 3rd quarter in Jacksonville as 6-point road favorites. They ultimately made a huge comeback, but still only won by 4 at the last second and never had a shot to cover as 6-point favorites.

The Steelers were originally 6-point road favorites again in this one in Denver, but as a result of the Steelers’ underwhelming performance last week, combined with the Broncos’ upset victory in Los Angeles against the Chargers, this line has shifted to a field goal. The Steelers also might be more focused this week, after sleepwalking through 3 quarters against the Jaguars last week. Despite that, I still like the Broncos a decent amount in this one, as they’re a much more formidable foe than the Jaguars were last week.

The Broncos are just 4-6, but they’ve been much better than their record. In addition to their win in Los Angeles last week, they also have been competitive against the Chiefs (twice), the Rams, and the Texans, a trio of division leaders who beat them by just a combined 16 points in 4 games. On the season, they have a -7 point differential and are even better in first down rate differential, ranking 11th at 2.25%, despite having the 2nd toughest schedule in terms of opponent’s DVOA.

Their offensive line injuries concern me a little, as their top-2 offensive linemen, right guard Ronald Leary and center Matt Paradis, went down for the season a few weeks ago, but the Steelers are without stud defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt with injury for the second straight week, so they won’t be able to take full advantage of Denver’s injuries. I wish we were getting a better line, but the Broncos are worth a small play and have a good shot to pull off the straight up upset here at home.

Denver Broncos 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Denver +3

Confidence: Medium

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-6)

I typically love going against significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play, and this game is no exception. Originally 3-point favorites on the early line last week, the Steelers are now 6-point favorites after their big home blowout victory over the Carolina Panthers. That kind of big win has not been typical of the Steelers recently, as it was just their 5th win by more than a touchdown in their last 19 games, dating back to last season. Blowout wins typically aren’t predictive of another blowout win either, as teams that outscore their opponents by 31 points on average outscore their next opponent by 5.31 points and just 2.62 points away from home, as the Steelers are in this one. That game could have easily been a case of the Panthers being unprepared away from home on a short week, so I don’t want to put too much stock into it.

The Steelers also have struggled in this kind of games in the past, going 5-15 ATS since Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year as non-divisional road favorites of 4.5 or more. Big Ben and company have a habit of putting up a dud outside of the division on the road against teams they’re supposed to beat and the Jaguars have had their number over the past year anyway. Jacksonville is not as good as they were last season, but they still have a top-5 defense and can make this a competitive game at home. They lost center Brandon Linder to injury last week, but it helps to have running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback AJ Bouye back healthy and the Steelers will be without a key defensive lineman with Stephon Tuitt injured. The Jaguars are worth a bet as 6-point home underdogs.

Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +6

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (6-2) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2-1)

Typically the rule of thumb for betting Thursday Night Football is to take the home team as long as they are comparable to or better than their opponents and as long as it’s not a division game. Non-divisional home favorites are 33-15 ATS all-time on Thursday nights. That makes a lot of sense, as it’s very tough for a team to travel on a short week and face an unfamiliar opponent unless you happen to have a significant talent advantage over that opponent. That favors the Steelers here on Thursday Night Football.

The line movement favors the Steelers as well, as this line has shifted from 6.5 on the early line last week to 5 where it opened to now down to 3.5 in some places. Unfortunately, I still don’t think we’re getting a good line with the Steelers, unless this line happens to continue falling to an even field goal, which I think is unlikely. I have these two teams about even right now, suggesting the Steelers should be favored by a field goal at home. They have a bigger homefield advantage on a short week, but there’s just not enough here for the Steelers to be worth a bet.

Pittsburgh Steelers 31 Carolina Panthers 26

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -3.5

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-4)

When I saw the Ravens open as mere 2.5-point home favorites against the Steelers, I expected to bet them this week. They were 3-point home favorites on the early line last week, but their blowout loss in Carolina shifted this line off the key number of 3 down to 2.5, a significant line movement when you consider about 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal. The Ravens didn’t look good in Carolina last week, but they could have easily been caught looking forward to this game. The previous week they were 3-point home favorites a strong New Orleans team and were competitive in that game, coming within a missed extra point of sending it to overtime.

That Saints team is better than this Steelers team, so it’s a bit of an overreaction for this line to be lower. As favorites of less than 3, the Ravens basically just need to win to cover. The Steelers got off to a slow start, but are now an overrated team again after ripping off three straight wins against a banged up Falcons team, a banged up Bengals team, and a struggling Browns team. They’re considered top level contenders because of their history, but their defense is still not the same as when they had a healthy Ryan Shazier. They have just 3 wins by more than a touchdown since he went down, a span of 13 games in which they’ve allowed 24.8 points per game.

We should be getting significant line value with the Ravens, but the problem is left tackle Ronnie Stanley, arguably the Ravens most important offensive player other than the quarterback, will be out with an ankle injury and this line did not move to compensate. The Ravens could be getting left guard Alex Lewis and cornerback Marlon Humphrey back from two game absences after they made their returns to practice this week, but they’ll still be without right tackle James Hurst for the 3rd straight game and his bookend Stanley will join him on the sidelines this week, creating a tough situation for the Ravens upfront even if Lewis can play.

The Steelers have a key injury with right tackle Marcus Gilbert out for the second straight week, but they’re overall in a much better injury situation and could easily take advantage of that like they did against the Falcons and Bengals. I’m still taking the Ravens because I think even without Stanley these two teams are about even, meaning this line should still be at 3, but without Stanley I can’t be confident betting on them.

Baltimore Ravens 20 Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -2.5

Confidence: Low