Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM
SNF - Bills at Steelers
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NFL Week 15 Sunday Night Football Betting Preview
Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET)
SNF Betting Results
I'm not even entirely sure that the NFL's concept of flexing games into the prime time SNF slot has was around the last time the Buffalo Bills were considered to be a candidate for that, but here they are in 2019, sitting at 9-4 SU and flexed into the SNF game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Both teams have been great success stories in the NFL this season, and if the playoffs were to start today, they would each be out on the road as a Wildcard team looking to upset the Chiefs or Texans. It's a big game for both without question, as the winner – especially if it's Buffalo – has the inside track on securing a playoff berth. And while I'm sure both fan bases are excited to see their squads that were heavily critiqued (Buffalo) or left for dead (Pittsburgh) at the beginning of October are happy to get the bright light treatment, but from a betting perspective, this game doesn't offer a whole lot.
But after grabbing a win with the LA Rams last week, let's see if we can find a potentially profitable way to attack this week's SNF game.
This total opened up at the key number of 37 pretty much everywhere, and throughout the week it's been 'under' money trickling in each day. Currently the total currently sits at 35.5/36 depending where you look, as that 'under' money has garnered respect in the market, and any time it does fall off such a key number like 37 you should treat it as such.
Both teams have been 'under' machines this season as they each come into this game with 3-10 O/U records. Those results have been in large part because of the play from the two defenses, as both are stout, and in Pittsburgh's case, great at taking the ball away. Pittsburgh comes into this game with 2.5 takeaways per game on the season, an absurd number to have this late in the year – tops in the NFL. Yet, the bad news for Pittsburgh in that regard is that the last two teams on SNF that had the better takeaway per game numbers – Seattle and New England – each got blown out. Both did play on the road though, something Pittsburgh doesn't have to deal with this week.
I bring up takeaway and turnover numbers because in a game with such a low total, it will likely be those that end up deciding the total result. Should they happen when an offense is driving the ball, 'under' bettors will rejoice, but should they happen early on in drives, those same 'under' bettors will be cursing at their televisions and falling back on the saying “you can't handicap turnovers.” For the most part that's true, but it becomes all too frequent of an excuse for a losing play in the industry these days.
The total move below 37 has to be respected though, although the “betting numbers” part of me is dealing with the internal struggle of not looking to go 'over' now that it is below such a key number.
Getting back to the turnover talk, did you know that this is the first time in 10 weeks that the SNF game has had the team with the worse turnover margin heading into the contest playing on the road? Go back and look it up if you don't believe me, but we've had 9 straight weeks of the home side being the one with the lower turnover margin (at the time) on SNF, and said teams have gone 6-3 SU and ATS while at home in those contests. And all three of those SU and ATS defeats came when the home team was statistically the more undisciplined at the time in both penalties taken per game and penalty yards per game (LAC in Week 6, KC in Week 8, and Dallas in Week 10).
Now even though that doesn't specifically apply to this week's game, it does speak to how difficult a handicap this game appears to be. Pittsburgh comes in with the better turnover margin, but takes fewer penalties per game (7.3 vs 7.5) and yet deals with more penalty yards against per game (60.3 vs 59.6). All minute differences when you really look at it, but it is just another example of how tight of a number this is. Considering SNF has been a haven for backing the home side the past nine weeks, it's going to be the Pittsburgh side that likely sees plenty of love come kickoff, but having the action split across the middle is very likely as well.
With how sharp the numbers on both the side and total appear to be, and the total being as low as it is, the best way to bet this game may actually be through a teaser. Spreads that are +/- 3 are always great teaser options because you can manipulate the spread through larger key numbers (+3,+7 etc) and in a game that's projected to be close, those points are much more valuable then say teasing a much bigger underdog initially even higher. Add in that low total games are also great teaser candidates given that each point is theoretically more valuable given they will likely be harder to come by, this game really does fit the bill of Teaser 101 handicapping.
And while I'm never a fan of teasing through zero, in a case like this I'm not sure it will hurt you as much as other situations. That's not to say teasing Pittsburgh down is the better option – I personally believe getting Buffalo is at +7.5 or +8 – it's not the worst option either.
The same thing goes with the total as teasing it up and back to the low 40's is the better way to go, but going the other way and having an 'over' 30 leg in your teaser isn't horrible either.
So, this is a game I have very little interest in flat betting either way, using a 6-point teaser on Buffalo up to +7.5 and the total up to 42 does make this game worth having some action on. It's going to feel like a playoff game for both sides, and all things considered, something like a 17-14 or 20-17 game is in the range of the most likely outcomes. Why bother with the actual spread/total if that does end up being the case.