Pittsburgh’s had a solid 2-0 SU preseason so far and the ability to a Chiefs team to just 7 points for an entire game is a nice notch in the belt to have, even if it is only the preseason. There is not a left for the Steelers to do this preseason except maybe get Big Ben some snaps – which should be in the plan this week. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for backing Pittsburgh this week, but a team like the Steelers has got to be anxious for the games to start to count for real.
From Tennessee’s perspective, they’ve still got QB Ryan Tannehill pushing his case to possibly be the starter for this team going forward, although Marcus Mariota will be under center in Week 1. His leash could be quite a bit shorter though should Tannehill continue to look impressive in the preseason, and given that this Steelers defense just contained the explosive Kansas City offense, for Tannehill (or any of the Titans QB’s) to put up big numbers on Pittsburgh’s defense here would be a nice notch in their belt going forward.
So with a combined 3-1 SU and 2-1-1 ATS preseason record between the two teams, who ends up getting the cash this week?
NFL Odds: Tennessee (-2.5); Total set at 40
I’m not sure which side is going to get the money, but I believe you can only look to Tennessee in that scenario simply because of the situation. Pittsburgh’s got nothing left to prove out there this August, are on the road for the first time this summer, and want nothing more then for Roethlisberger to get his reps and get out of town unscathed. That’s not exactly the best game plan for going out and winning/covering a number out on the road, even if the Steelers are getting points.
Compared to Tennessee being a team that’s more about the entire process under Mike Vrabel’s leadership, and a team that’s got a potential QB battle brewing under the surface, I can only look at backing the Titans in this spot, especially on any point spread below that -3 key number. Tennessee’s did get a spike in early action pushing the opener of -1.5 up to -3, but it’s stayed stagnant since, and it would be that Titans side that I’d only look to.
However, it’s this total that presents a better betting opportunity to me, as this total of a flat 40 points seems about a FG or so too low given that this is still Week 3 of the preseason.
Although the often overlooked part of “dress rehearsal” week in the NFL preseason is the fact that the starting defenses get significant time out on the field as well – many hear that starting offenses are playing a half or so and automatically want to think ‘overs’ because of it – this total is still too low in my eyes.
Yes, both defenses are out there for longer (in terms of starters), but they are in self-preservation mode now too, not looking to launch their body around and blow themselves up before the games start to count. In fact, you could make the argument that this week we can get defense that resembles somewhere in between actual defense and Pro-Bowl type defense from starting units because they don’t want to get hurt either. Starters don’t need to fly around the field and make impressions with big hits in August, and even against vanilla-flavored gameplans, starting units can look bad. And for units that have very few starting position battles going on, there really isn’t a whole lot of incentive to look “good” this week if it’s going to potentially cost you a start or two in September.
At the same time, the Steelers/Chiefs and Titans/Patriots preseason games a week ago were two of the most heavily bet ‘overs’ from a market perspective we had all week. Only the Titans/Patriots game came close to cashing an ‘over’ ticket, and because of that there is always going to be some hesitation in the market going back to that well. Betting percentage numbers up at VegasInsider.com already show significant percentages of 75%+ on the ‘unders’ in this game and the Patriots game this week, as it appears some don’t want to get burned again backing an ‘over’ in the preseason.
Yet, when the majority of the market is going one way and the number doesn’t move, it’s never a bad idea to start to search for supporting reasons to submit a play on the other side. For this game specifically, we’ve got it being in prime time, under the bright lights of SNF in a scheduling spot where an entertaining game would be welcomed.
Secondly, the starting units on both sides are going to want to be responsible for putting points up on the board when they can, and should be able to do so. Remember, there is so much talk about offenses being vanilla this time of year, but starting defenses are in the same boat, and with this game being their longest stint on the field, soft serve defense may be on the menu as well. Get the starters to give us something like a 14-10 game at half and we are well on our way to an ‘over’ cashing. Both teams have scored at least 17 points in both preseason tilts so far, and from there it’s just one more TD needed to cash an ‘over’ ticket as well.
Finally, even with last week’s home game against the Patriots going ‘under’, Tennessee is still on a 6-3 O/U run at home in the preseason the past couple of years, and have averaged 42.4 points per game in that span. Pittsburgh went 2-0 O/U on the road in the preseason last year as they really don’t mind testing their mettle in back-and-forth affairs in hostile territory this time of year, and have a 6-3 O/U run going themselves during this week of the preseason with 42.7 points per game averaged in those contests as well.
With the SNF crew setting the stage for this game and the upcoming season, this Pittsburgh/Tennessee game should play up to the level of prime time football and put up plenty of points on the board relative to this total.