There are few better feelings than hitting a big bet. Nailing the handicap makes it even better. I felt my read on Minnesota last week warranted my biggest bet of the year and delivered. It is a great time to be a reader of Matchbook Insights.
This week appears challenging to navigate. There are eleven games on Sunday. Five have double-digit favourites, and seven have a side receiving more than 65% of wagers.
Favourites have been winning at a 66% rate the last five weeks, and after all three favourites won on Thanksgiving Thursday, bookmakers are taking a stand.
I think bookmakers did well with the New England, Atlanta and Kansas City prices, but, they left Pittsburgh too short.
It is a bit unusual to see me spotting such a giant number. I am not morally opposed, but it is to feel there is value at such an extreme price.
Pittsburgh is a rare team though. At 8-2, they are in control of the division and continue to push for the best record in the AFC and securing home field throughout the playoffs. What impresses me the most is that the Steelers continue to dominate without reaching their peak. They rank 5th in yards per play, but rank just above average in offensive and defensive efficiency.
There is no question that this is the most talented roster in the NFL – and it is not close.
Through eleven weeks, the Steelers have two of the top graded players at their position and an additional three that grade in the top ten. None of those five is named Bell or Ben.
Shocking, isn’t it?
The Green Bay Packers carry significant name value with them, and I believe that is the only thing keeping this from a more realistic number of Pittsburgh -17.
Brett Hundley is in an impossible situation this season filling in for Aaron Rodgers, but, I am not sure anyone expected him to struggle as much as he is. The vanilla play calling of Mike McCarthy does not help, but the biggest issue is Hundley’s ability to throw under pressure.
Anytime Hundley drops back and faces pressure he is completing just 41% of his passes and has a passer rating of only 40.1. To put that in perspective, when he does not face pressure, he completes 71% of his passes, a massive 30% difference.
Something important to remember when betting NFL is that pressure is not the same as blitzing.
Defences that force quarterbacks to move and make uncomfortable decisions without bringing extra guys are often just as valuable if not more so than teams who gamble via the blitz.
Pittsburgh is a nightmare defence for Hundley to face. In eleven games, the Steelers have generated a ridiculous 215 pressures – the second most in the league. They also “get home” on an extremely high 52% of their blitzes. With no pure running back on the roster, the second Pittsburgh gets ahead; this becomes an impossible game for the one dimensional Packers offence.
The Packers defence faces an equally tricky scenario. If they decide to stack the box and blitz to try stop Bell out of the backfield, they expose their cornerbacks who cannot play man to man (111.1 passer rating allowed vs Blitz).
If they try to sit back and help their corners, then Bell has the freedom to run and make catches out of the backfield against one of the worst tackling defences.
This game is an awful matchup for Green Bay. It is rare that Mike Tomlin has a coaching advantage, but, much like the Kansas City game earlier this season, he can do no wrong with his game plan.
Steelers for me at -13.5