Falcons-Steelers Betting Preview: Buckle Up for a Shootout?
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Julio Jones, Antonio Brown
Betting odds: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Spread: Steelers -3
- Over/Under: 58
- Time: 1 p.m. ET
- TV channel: FOX
>> All odds as of Friday morning. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets
Betting market: During the early stages of the week, this game resembled a juicy juice factory. Oddsmakers were scared to allow bettors to take the Falcons plus the hook, as the Steelers line was (and still is at some books) up to -3 (-130), which is higher than we generally see juice reach (you can find updated odds here).
Alas, the Steelers were finally pushed up to -3.5 at a number of shops. They’ve gotten 56% of bets and 70% of spread dollars thus far, but if a wave of sharp action comes in on the Falcons at this new number, we could definitely see a move back into juice-land. — Mark Gallant
Trends to know: At 58, many bettors may be wary of taking the over in the Falcons-Steelers game.
In Ben Roethlisberger’s career, the over has been a very profitable trend when he plays at home, but the better angle may be the first-half over.
In Roethlisberger’s career, the over is 61-47-3 (56.5%), making him the third-most profitable quarterback to the over in that span behind Drew Brees and Tom Brady, according to our Bet Labs data.
In the first half, the over is 54-40-7 (57.4%) when Big Ben starts at home, the second-most profitable home quarterback behind Brett Favre over that span.
On top of that, when the full-game total is 50 or more, the first half over is 6-1-1 at home for Roethlisberger, too. — Evan Abrams
Did you know? How bad has the Falcons defense been? Since 1940, teams scoring 36 or more points at home with no turnovers have gone 402-4 — with the Falcons responsible for two of those four losses over the past two weeks. — Stuckey
The ever-important red zone: The Steelers defense has been just as bad as the Falcons, allowing a slightly worse 6.0 yards per play, 25th in NFL.
With two teams ranking in the bottom seven in scoring defense, neither offense should have trouble moving the ball up and down the field, which means this game might come down to red-zone execution.
The Falcons have looked sharp in the red zone over their past three contests (11 touchdowns in last 13 trips inside the 20).
Unsurprisingly, the Steelers’ high-powered offense has had a lot of success inside the red zone — even without Le’Veon Bell.
In fact, these two teams rank in the top seven in red-zone touchdown percentage and are Nos. 1 and 2 over the past three games.
However, it’s been the Steelers defense that has played significantly better than the Falcons when opponents get inside the red zone.
Pittsburgh has given up touchdowns on only 52.94% (14th in NFL) of opponent drives inside the red zone compared to Atlanta’s astronomical 81.25% (28th in NFL).
If the Steelers can continue to bend and not break at a similar clip on Sunday, they should walk away with a home victory. — Stuckey
Biggest mismatch: Steelers running backs/tight ends vs. Falcons pass defense
While the Steelers have the league’s best wide receiver duo with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, they will need to get contributions from their other pass catchers if they want to keep up with the Falcons.
Enter running back James Conner and tight ends Vance McDonald and Jesse James. The Falcons run a cover-3 defense that intentionally funnels targets to the middle of the field. As long as the Falcons are able to limit the yardage earned on these plays, their defense can bend without breaking.
The problem, though, is that the Falcons are without key coverage defenders Deion Jones (foot, injured reserve), Keanu Neal (knee, IR) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles, IR).
They have collectively been replaced by Duke Riley, a second-year player with a 57.8 PFF coverage grade; Damontae Kazee, a second-year fifth-rounder with just 226 coverage snaps; and Brian Poole, an undrafted third-year cornerback playing out of position as a box safety.
If Conner, McDonald and James can exploit the middle of the Falcons pass defense, the Steelers could have a big day. — Matthew Freedman
Which team is healthier? Steelers
Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman (knee) is expected to return on Sunday, and he’ll almost certainly be accompanied by Tevin Coleman (shin), Julio Jones (hand/ankle) and Mohamed Sanu (hip).
There’s less good news on the defensive side of the ball, as Vic Beasley (ankle) and defensive end Derrick Shelby (groin) should be considered questionable, while stud defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (ankle) has already been ruled out.
The only Steelers starters at risk of missing Sunday’s game are linebacker Vince Williams (hamstring) and safety Morgan Burnett (groin).
DFS edge: Only the Vikings and Colts are throwing on a higher percentage of their offensive plays than the Steelers (70.7%), and they have a much easier matchup this week.
Roethlisberger looks underpriced ($6,900 DraftKings) against a Falcons defense that currently ranks 28th in pass DVOA. Atlanta has allowed quarterbacks to score the league’s fourth-most DraftKings points per game (28.5) and is dealing with a ton of injuries to open the season. — Joe Holka
Bet to watch: Steelers -3
The Falcons defense has given up 80 combined points to the Saints and Bengals over the past two weeks with all those injuries.
So in a game that will likely come down to which defense can get a few stops, I’ll side with the Steelers.
And just for good measure, Pittsburgh has gone 15-9-3 against the spread (good for an 18.8% ROI) when it isn’t favored by more than three points at home over the past 10 years. — Ian Hartitz
Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.