Steelers-Saints Betting Preview: Will Pittsburgh Pull Off Another Upset?

Steelers-Saints Betting Preview: Will Pittsburgh Pull Off Another Upset? article feature image

USA Today Sports. Pictured: Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees

Betting odds: Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints

  • Spread: Saints -6
  • Over/Under: 53
  • Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: CBS

>> All odds as of Friday afternoon. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets

Betting market: Fifty-eight percent of bettors are laying the points with the Saints, but they’ve accounted for a smaller percentage of actual money (40%). With bigger bettors on the Steelers, this line had dropped from -6 to -5.5, but is back up to -6 as of writing (see live odds here).

At 53, this is the second-highest total on Sunday’s slate. Bets are split 50/50, but the majority of money (67%) is on the under.Danny Donahue

Trends to know: Drew Brees is one of the most profitable quarterbacks in our Bet Labs database with a 141-111-6 (56%) record against the spread since 2003 (including playoffs). But he’s struggled as a big favorite.

In games that Brees is favored by six or more points, he’s gone 41-44 ATS, which means he’s 100-67-6 (60%) ATS in all other games. John Ewing

The Saints’ 12-9 victory over the Panthers on Monday Night Football was the first time Brees had won a game scoring fewer than 14 points.

Since 2003, teams that won their previous game when scoring fewer than 14 points went 87-70-6 (55%) ATS. Ewing

Playoff picture: After the Ravens won on Saturday night, the Steelers need a victory at New Orleans to keep from falling out of the playoff picture entirely.

If Pittsburgh loses, Baltimore would take control of the AFC North with one game to play.

The Saints are all-but certain to have the No. 1 seed (95.3% chance, according to our simulations). New Orleans would have to lose out for a non-No.-1-seed scenario to come into play. Scott T. Miller

More trends: Averaging 30 points per game in the NFL is hard. It also comes with lofty expectations.

The Chiefs, Rams and Saints are averaging that many points and have recently worn that mark like a scarlet letter. Combined, the three teams are 2-6 ATS in December, following a very profitable trend: Since 2003, teams averaging at least 30 points per game in December or later are 60-89-3 (40.3%) ATS, including 4-14 ATS over the past two seasons.

The Cardinals are averaging only 13.7 points per game — the fewest in the NFL. Since 2003, teams averaging at least 30 points per game in December or later are 11-4 straight up but 1-14 ATS when facing teams averaging fewer than 17 points per game, failing to cover by 5.8 points per game. Evan Abrams

Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Mike Tomlin

Did you know? Mike Tomlin is 46-47 ATS on the road over his career, which isn’t that surprising. But if you break that record down between teams .500 or better vs. teams under .500, the splits are glaring:

  • On the road against teams .500 or better: 28-13 (68.3%) with a 34.2% return on investment, covering by an average of 3.78 points
  • Against teams under .500: 15-30-1 (33.3%) with a -31.2% ROI, failing to cover by an average of 2.98 points

The same is true with the moneyline. He’s been successful overall on the ML on the road with a 55-38-1 (59.1%) record, covering by 2.32 points per game.

But the numbers get much better if you break that down by opponent winning percentage.

  • On the road against teams .500 or better: 28-13; +$2,031; 49.5% ROI
  • Against teams under .500: 24-22;-$1,204;-26.2% ROI Stuckey

Which team is healthier? Saints

Only Saints left tackle Terron Armstead (pec) is thought to be at risk of missing this matchup.

The Steelers on the other hand are dealing with impactful injuries to James Conner (ankle) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (groin), who was injured during Thursday’s practice and is questionable for Sunday’s game. Safety Terrell Edmunds (concussion) and linebacker Bud Dupree (knee) are also banged up.

Note: Info as of 6 p.m. ET Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff. — Ian Hartitz

Biggest mismatch: Steelers’ Slot Receivers vs. Saints CB P.J. Williams

The Saints are most vulnerable in the slot, where Williams primarily lines up. He’s been one of the worst cornerbacks in coverage this season, ranking as Pro Football Focus’ No. 107 cornerback in coverage out of 116 qualifiers.

The Steelers will move their receivers around as Smith-Schuster has run 65.4% of his routes from the slot this season while Antonio Brown has run 20.4% of his routes from the slot.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: P.J. Williams

It’s also worth noting that Eli Rogers was active for his first game of the season in Week 15 and was targeted four times while running 84.2% of his routes from the slot, but JuJu still had a 62.9% slot rate on Sunday. — Justin Bailey

DFS edge: The Saints have varied their shadow coverages this season, sometimes simply sticking Marshon Lattimore on the opposition’s No. 1 receiver, and other times putting Lattimore on the No. 2 receiver while Eli Apple takes care of the top pass-game option with consistent safety help.

The former seems like the most likely scenario this week considering Lattimore (6% slot rate) and Apple (7%) have barely moved inside while Smith-Schuster has played the majority of his snaps in the slot. This would present an A-plus matchup for Smith-Schuster if he suits up for the week’s highest-implied matchup.

Brown is certainly capable of balling out in any matchup, but the Steelers’ top-two receivers carry an unfriendly-fantasy correlation of -0.54 on DraftKings since the beginning of last season. This means DFS players are better off stacking Ben Roethlisberger with either Smith-Schuster or Brown, but not both. Hartitz

Bet to watch: Steelers +6

Tomlin on the road against a very good team catching points?

Sign me up.

There’s a reason the trend I highlighted above works. The Steelers are also 14-6-1 ATS as a road dog against teams above .500 under Tomlin. He will have his team fired up, and the Steelers will be ready to roll from the opening kick in a game that’s important for them (especially if the Ravens win on Saturday).

The Steelers can match the Saints in the trenches, which is where New Orleans’ success on both sides of the ball starts.

The Saints’ defensive line has the third-highest mark in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, while their offensive line ranks second. Well, the Steelers rank second and fourth in those respective categories.

They can play with the Saints inside and will generate enough pressure at times to disrupt the Saints offense — an offense that has been completely out of rhythm for the past three weeks with outputs of 10, 28 and 12 points … and those 28 points came against a horrible Tampa Bay defense, with 17 scored in the fourth quarter.

I think the Saints will pull out a tight one, but this is just a few points too high given the matchup and the Tomlin’s success against good teams on the road. Stuckey

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.

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