NFL Predictions, Picks, Odds: Multiple Experts Like Steelers To Cover, Bucs-Colts and Panthers-Dolphins Overs
Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured: Steelers WR Diontae Johnson, TE Pat Freiermuth
NFL Predictions, Picks, Odds
Steelers at Bengals
Chris Raybon: This is a matchup between evenly-matched teams, as the Steelers are ranked 22nd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA while the Bengals are 21st, so I’m taking the points.
There should be a big motivational edge for the Steelers in a revenge game after the Bengals beat them at home in embarrassing fashion earlier in the season, when Tyler Boyd told the whole world Pittsburgh rolled over and quit.
No coach is better at getting his players fired up in these spots than Mike Tomlin — he’s 20-9 (69%) against the spread (ATS) in his career against the Bengals, 35-15-2 (72%) ATS as an underdog from Week 3-on, and 29-7-1 (81%) ATS as an underdog versus an opponent with an equal or better winning percentage (per our Action Labs data).
I would bet them down to +3.
Steelers at Bengals
Brandon Anderson: What have we seen from the Bengals that makes them solid favorites against these Steelers?
Nine of the Bengals’ 10 games have been within one score in the final five minutes. The only one that wasn’t? Week 3 in Pittsburgh against the Steelers, an easy 24-10 win for the Bengals. Ah, there it is.
This is not the same Pittsburgh team we saw in September, though. It never is by the time we reach this point in the season. Mike Tomlin, like Bill Belichick, uses that first month as an extension of the preseason to work the kinks out and help his team peak late. Well, it’s late now, and we saw how good the Steelers could be in flashes of a late comeback attempt against the Chargers.
Ben Roethlisberger is 24-9 against the Bengals over his career and 12-4 ATS in Cincinnati. Plus he and Tomlin have also been terrific as underdogs — Tomlin is 42-20-2 (68%) ATS as a dog, including 4-1 ATS this season. The Steelers won three of those games outright and almost added a fourth last Sunday night, and Tomlin underdog moneylines have a 34% ROI.
Big Ben played his best game of the season last week and they also expect to get Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt back.
Maybe this is a trap, but I’m stepping right into it.
Bucs at Colts
Sean Koerner: At time of writing, 69% of the bets and 71% of the money has come in on Tampa Bay here, which makes me believe the public wasn’t buying the Colts’ 41-15 win over the Bills last week. However, I feel the 6-5 Colts are an underrated team, and according to my Expected Wins metric, they have an expected record of 7.4-3.6. This is mainly due to averaging 32:53 of game time with the lead this season, fourth in the league. Bad luck in close games (1-3 in one-score games) is why they are only one game above .500 and why the public is overlooking them right now.
Assuming Quenton Nelson (questionable) suits up, the Colts offensive line will be at full strength for the fifth straight game. It’s a big reason why Jonathan Taylor has become a dark horse MVP candidate over that stretch. Carson Wentz has made some costly turnovers this season, but overall, he’s doing an excellent job of keeping the ball out of harm’s way, as seen by his 2.4% turnover worthy play rate, per PFF, which ranks eighth-lowest out of 38 QBs. I believe the Colts offense can keep pace with Tom Brady and the Bucs here.
Ali Marpet has been ruled out for the game, which is a massive blow to Tampa’s o-line. He is the glue that holds the o-line together, and his replacement Aaron Stinnie is a significant downgrade. To make matters worse, Stinnie will likely have to matchup with DeForest Buckner, which seems like an impossible task. The Bucs went 1-2 when Marpet missed Weeks 9-11 last year, and Brady struggled, throwing for five interceptions over that three-game span. One of Brady’s few weaknesses has been dealing with pressure up the middle. The Buckner vs. Stinnie mismatch could create that pressure up the middle that can cause issues for Brady.
I may be on an island here, but I love the Colts at +3.5.
Bucs at Colts
Raheem Palmer: The Colts have been an over team all season, leading the league at 7-4 to the over.
On defense, they’re just 22nd in dropback Expected Points Added (EPA) and 27th in dropback success rate despite playing the 23rd-ranked schedule of opposing offenses. Meanwhile, Tom Brady and this Buccaneers offense are first in EPA/play, second in success rate and top-five in dropback EPA and success rate.
It’s tough to imagine this Colts team slowing down the Buccaneers considering they gave up 30 to the Jets just two weeks ago. The Colts could likely find themselves in a negative game script needing to chase points or needing to pass the ball more as they’re unlikely to be able to run against the best run defense in the league over the last three years.
I’m expecting a shootout with model making this game 54. I’ll take the over up to 53.5 points.
Panthers at Dolphins
Billy Ward: The Dolphins and Panthers combine to average 38.8 points scored on offense while allowing 44.5 points. The total of 42 makes perfect sense in that context. However, it’s not that simple.
Miami has had quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for five (full) games on the season. The Dolphins have averaged an improved 20 points in those games. The Panthers have had Christian McCaffrey for only four games, counting games in which he played at least half of the snaps. They average 25 points in those games — and that’s to say nothing of the improvements they’ve shown with Cam Newton under center in a limited sample size.
Carolina does play solid defense, but not enough to be a major hindrance. The Panthers’ 20 points per game allowed is deflated thanks to a soft early-season schedule. Their first three opponents were the Jets, Saints and Texans, who scored a combined 40 points against them.
With both offenses being better than their season-long stats would suggest, there’s value on the over here — especially if you can lock it in at 41.5 points. I’d bet it up to 42 though.
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