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

Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (2-4-1) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3-2-1)

Going into the season, the Browns were high on my underrated teams list. Despite going winless in 2017, they were just 6th worst in first down rate differential at -3.45% and their -28 turnover margin was highly unlikely to continue with a completely new quarterback situation. The Browns have been a bit disappointing this year though. Their turnover margin has done a 180, as they rank 1st in the NFL with a +10 turnover margin, but despite that they are just 2-4-1 and have a -26 point differential. Their first down rate differential is just -5.48%, 30th in the NFL, actually worse than last season, and their turnover margin could easily regress going forward.

Their defense has been solid, ranking 12th in first down rate allowed at 35.50%, but they are without talented every down linebacker Joe Schobert with injury and their offense has been terrible, ranking 30th in first down rate at 30.02%, only ahead of the Cardinals and Bills. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield won the starting job with one good half against the Jets when they didn’t gameplan for him on a short week, but he’s seemingly gotten worse every week and Hue Jackson’s offensive coaching staff seems incapable of turning him around. At this point, it might be best for the Browns to go back to their original plan of starting Tyrod Taylor and letting Mayfield develop behind the scenes as a rookie, but they’ve given no indication that that’s something they are considering.

The Browns are also in a tough spot with a home game against the AFC leading Chiefs on deck, a game in which they are 7-point home underdogs on the early line. Teams are just 30-55 ATS since 2014 before being home underdogs of 6+, as big upcoming home games tend to be a distraction for teams. Underdogs of 6+ are also just 46-66 ATS before being underdogs of 6+ again, as it’s tough for inferior teams to keep up with superior teams when they have another tough game on deck.

Despite all of that, I actually like the Browns this week as 8-point underdogs in Pittsburgh. As bad of a spot as the Browns are in, they won’t overlook the Steelers, while Pittsburgh is also in a terrible spot of their own, with a trip to Baltimore on deck. Teams are just 16-34 ATS since 2008 as divisional home favorites before being divisional road underdogs the following week. The Steelers are also an overrated team that has just 6 wins by more than a touchdown since the start of last season (23 games) and just 3 wins by more than a touchdown since the midway of last season (15 games). They are also missing key right tackle Marcus Gilbert with injury. The Browns should be able to keep this one close enough to cover.

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 Cleveland Browns 19

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +8

Confidence: Medium

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-1)

This line was -3 in favor of Cincinnati last week on the early line, but it has since shifted to -1.5, as a result of Pittsburgh’s big 41-17 win over the Falcons last week. After a rough start to the season, the people seem to be back to thinking the Steelers are a top AFC contender, so they are overrated again. As impressive as their win last week was, it came at home against an Atlanta team that is mediocre without all of the players they are missing due to injury.

It was also just their third win by more than a touchdown since the midway point of last season, a span of 14 games, and just their 6th win by more than a touchdown since the beginning of last season, with their other 9 wins coming by a combined 31 points. They’ve also still allowed 26.3 points per game in their last 10 games since losing stud linebacker Ryan Shazier to injury late last season. They held Atlanta to 17 last week, but that was just the second time in those 10 games that they’ve kept a team under 21, with the other instance coming against a TJ Yates led Texans team. Their defensive issues aren’t suddenly fixed just because of one good game.

Despite that, this line suggests the Steelers are slightly better than the hometown Bengals. Even if this line was at -3 like it was last week, suggesting these two teams are about even, we’d still be getting line value with the Bengals, who are the better team in this game. I have this line calculated at -5. The Bengals have begun the year 4-1 and rank 4th in first down rate differential at +5.38%, 8 spots better than the Steelers (+1.18%).

Even more impressive is that they’ve done that with running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict, two of their more important players, missing time with injury and suspension respectively. Both returned last week, but they should be much closer to 100% this week after being limited in their returns. The Bengals are the better team at home, so they should be able to win relatively easily, which is really all they need to do to cover this small line. I like them a lot this week.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 23

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati -1.5

Confidence: High

Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (1-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2-1)

These two teams are pretty similar. Both have strong offenses, but struggle mightily to stop anyone. The Steelers’ defense took a bit hit when they lost linebacker Ryan Shazier to injury last season, but they were an overrated team even before that. Just 5 of their 14 wins over the past 2 seasons have come by more than 7 points, including just 2 since the midpoint of last season, a span of 13 games. Without Shazier, they’ve allowed an average of 27.33 points per game in 9 games.

The Falcons’ defensive issues are also largely due to injury, as they are missing linebacker Deion Jones and safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen for extended periods of time and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett joins them on the sideline this week, making matters worse. Those are 4 of their best defensive players and they weren’t a great defense even with them. On offense, running back Devonta Freeman returns, but they’re still without guard Andy Levitre, so they’re not at full strength on that side of the ball either.

This line favors the Steelers by 3 at home, suggesting these two teams are about even, so we aren’t getting line value in either direction. The Falcons are in a slightly better spot though. While the Steelers have to turn around and go to Cincinnati next week, the Falcons are at home for the Buccaneers. Underdogs are 80-45 ATS before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. The Steelers could have a little bit of split focus this week with the 3-1 Bengals on deck, while the Falcons should be fully focused and cannot afford to fall to 1-4 in the loaded NFC. I wouldn’t recommend betting it, but the Falcons should be the right side.

Pittsburgh Steelers 35 Atlanta Falcons 34

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +3

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2018 Week 4 NFL Pick

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

The Steelers held on for a 3 point win in Tampa Bay last week on Monday Night Football, but they’re still an overrated team, dating back to 2017. Just 5 of their 14 wins over the past 2 seasons have come by more than 7 points, including just 2 since the midpoint of last season, a span of 12 games. They’ve especially struggled since losing linebacker Ryan Shazier to injury, allowing 27.5 points per game in 8 games (2-6 ATS) without one of the better linebackers in the league.

The Steelers do get right guard David DeCastro and right tackle Marcus Gilbert back from 2-game and 1-game absences respectively this week though, and they’re facing another overrated team, the Baltimore Ravens. Over the past 2 seasons, the Ravens have played 8 games against teams quarterbacked by Deshone Kizer (x2), EJ Manuel, Tom Savage, Brett Hundley, Jacoby Brissett, Matt Moore, and Nathan Peterman. They are just 3-8 in their other 11 games, including two losses in Pittsburgh last year. We’re not getting enough line value with the Steelers for them to be worth betting, but they’re the slightly better team.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Baltimore Ravens 23

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -3

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2018 Week 3 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)

This line briefly opened at Pittsburgh -3, but sharp action quickly bet the line down to 1.5. I regret not grabbing Tampa Bay +3 when I saw it, as, not only is it obviously a better number, but the Steelers have really had a lot of trouble covering decent sized or bigger lines as non-divisional road favorites in the Mike Tomlin era, going 7-18 ATS as non-divisional road favorites of 3+ (6-4 ATS as road favorites of less than 3).

Despite that movement, we are still getting line value with the Buccaneers, who have been one of the NFL’s biggest surprises at 2-0, with wins over 2017 playoff teams in the Saints and Eagles. Their strong play is not coming out of nowhere though. Despite being just 5-11 a year ago, the Buccaneers finished 12th in first down rate differential and lost just 4 games by more than 7 points, against one of the toughest schedules in the NFL. That was even with Jameis Winston missing 3 games and being limited in others with a shoulder injury.

Before Jameis Winston got suspended, I thought this team could easily be a surprise playoff team in the NFC, but I backed off after the Winston suspension and other troubling news about him this off-season. Instead, Ryan Fitzpatrick has come in and played better than Winston ever has. It’s unclear how much the 35-year-old career journeyman can be trusted to continue playing like this, but I definitely have a lot more confidence in him now than I did a couple weeks ago.

On the other side, the Steelers are off to a disappointing 0-1-1 start, with a tie in Cleveland followed up by a home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Pittsburgh’s early season struggles are not out of nowhere either. They went 13-3 in 2017, but went 8-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less and could have easily been a 10 win team or worse. They especially struggled down the stretch, winning just 2 games by more than 4 points in the final 8 games of the season and then losing in their first playoff game at home to Jacksonville. That was in large part due to the loss of linebacker Ryan Shazier with injury and they did not adequately replace him this off-season.

Shazier isn’t the only player the Steelers don’t have on the field right now either. In addition to the holding out Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers are also missing arguably their two best offensive linemen, right guard David DeCastro and right tackle Marcus Gilbert, DeCastro missing his second game and Gilbert missing his first. They get Joe Haden back from a one game absence with a hamstring injury, but cornerback Artie Burns remains limited by a toe injury and is expected to be a reserve in this game, while safety/linebacker Morgan Burnett is expected to be out with a groin injury. Given all the guys they’re missing, the Steelers don’t deserve to be favored by any amount in Tampa, as I have these two teams about even in my roster rankings right now. The Buccaneers are worth a small bet this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 23 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +1.5

Confidence: Medium