NFL Odds: Steelers and Big Ben Rare Sunday Underdog
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 9/29/2011
The Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) head to Houston to take on the Texans (2-1) this Sunday. The Steelers are four-point underdogs. While Pittsburgh is rarely getting points, it’s not completely unheard of. As recent as the Super Bowl this past February they were getting three points against the Green Bay Packers.
On the road against Baltimore the Steelers are generally underdogs of one to three points. Last season, in Week 2 at Tennessee with Charlie Batch under center, the Steelers were six-point underdogs. Two seasons ago at Baltimore with Dennis Dixon under center the Steelers were nine-point underdogs.
What sticks out about this season is that the Steelers are underdogs by more than three points for the first time since Oct.5, 2008 with Ben Roethlisberger under center. This stretch includes two runs through the playoffs to the Super Bowl.
The big question: how did we get here and should we be here? Should Matt Schaub be favored over Roethlisberger? Should the Houston Texans, a franchise who has never been to the playoffs, be favored over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only franchise to win six Super Bowls?
And not just favored, but giving four points, a somewhat significant number in the NFL that is above the all important three, the most prolific of the key numbers in football betting.
The only other times the Steelers have been underdogs with Roethlisberger under center since 2008 have been against Baltimore and Green Bay. The Houston Texans certainly are not the Ravens or Packers.
The most surprising part about the line is that it originally opened at Houston -3 and the public gave it enough traction to push it Houston -4. Three weeks of football has apparently been enough to sell people that either he Steelers are no longer a dominant AFC power or that the Texans are one.
Right or wrong, there are plenty of lines early on the football season that seemed to be greatly influenced by a small sample size. This appears to be one.
The most damning evidence against the Steelers is their performances in Week 1 and Week 3. While the Texans were pasting the Peyton Manning-less Colts, 34-7, the Steelers were getting beat even worse by Baltimore, 35-7. In Week 3 against the same Peyton Manning-less Colts team, the Steelers needed all 60 minutes to squeeze past, 23-20.
The Steelers are 8-2 ATS and 7-3 SU in their last 10 games as underdogs. This point spread and the early action on Houston are based on what has happened the last three weeks – not the last three years.
Bettors will have to choose what sample size they like more when making their decision this week.
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