Thursday, November 7, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 10: Bills vs Steelers

Buffalo Bills vs Pittsburgh Steelers: BUF +3 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Last week, the Steelers were -3.5 point favorites for this matchup. But once we saw how they performed
against the Patriots, it's a bit of a surprise that they were still at that number on Monday morning. Sharp money did not hesitate and quickly bet it down to -3, where it stands now.

The only thing I see in this line is value, and we could probably thank the Steelers reputation for that. In reality, this is not a very good football team at all.

In fact ...
By my numbers, this game should be a 'pick em', which implies that the Bills are the better team since we are granting the Steelers with 2.5/3 points for home field advantage.

60% of the bets are on Pittsburgh.

Keep an eye on

I had this pick ready to go earlier, but I wanted to wait to see how EJ Manuel did in practice on Wed/Thurs before I locked it in. He hasn't suffered any setbacks, so he looks good to go for Sunday.

It's not like Manuel is going to make or break the Bills chances, because all of the Buffalo QB's have been a bit below average this season, but he does give them the best opportunity to win - as we saw last week with Jeff Tuel.

Either way, the Bills should be able to pick and choose how they want to move the ball and score against this Steelers defense. Pittsburgh rank below average in every meaningful category, and especially bad versus the pass, on third down, rushing the passer, and creating turnovers. This is so uncharacteristic of a defense that has the likes of Troy Polamalu and Dick Lebeau, but the numbers don't lie and they no longer pass the 'eye test'.

CJ Spiller might be banged up, but he and Fred Jackson will attack the Steelers up the gut. Casey Hampton doesn't shore up the middle anymore, and the Patriots made them pay last week. In the back, Polamalu is still a savvy vet capable of making plays, but his consistency is way down and William Gay is being targeted more with each passing week. Complicating things, Ike Taylor is questionable after suffering a concussion.

For the Steelers offense, the big red flag is no longer their running game. Instead, we need to look closer at what Big Ben is doing, especially in clutch situations. He was always counted on for coming up with game changing plays on third down, but he's not handling the blitz very well this year. Last week it resulted in three interceptions.

It's positive that Le'Veon Bell is producing and alleviating some of the pressure, but the fact is this offense remains average across the board. I'm sorry, but Cotchery cannot be your most targeted receiver.

The Bills defense has been good the entire season and the one area where they struggled in, third down efficiency, has improved a lot over recent weeks.

Bottom Line

The Bills are the better team, but they aren't viewed as such by the betting markets.  The key area where I expect them to win will be the line of scrimmage, where they have an advantage on both sides.  It could be a low-scoring, ugly affair, but I actually expect Buffalo to win this game outright.  If not, I feel good about having three points in my back pocket.

NFL Pick: BUF +3.