Bet the 'Under' in Bills vs. Steelers Week 2 NFL Preseason

Jason Lake

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 2:58 PM GMT

The Buffalo Bills used their Hall of Fame Game advantage and beat the preseason NFL betting lines in Week 1. They should still have a leg up on the Pittsburgh Steelers when they meet Saturday night at Heinz Field.

Some days, betting on the NFL is easy. Take the Week 1 preseason tilt between the Buffalo Bills and the Carolina Panthers. Buffalo had already played the previous week in the Hall of Fame Game, while Carolina was making its exhibition debut. Teams in Buffalo’s situation had gone 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS over the previous five years (not including 2011, when the HOF Game was cancelled). NFL betting angles don’t get much juicier than that. And the Bills (–1 away at the close) did indeed beat the Panthers 20-18.

In theory, Buffalo should still have the edge in preparation for Saturday’s matchup (7:30 p.m. ET) with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But that advantage should also be much smaller with Buffalo having played two games to Pittsburgh’s one. What do the numbers say? And what should we do with said numbers?

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Boney Marrone
The first question is easy enough to answer: Since 2008 inclusive, teams who made their preseason debuts in Canton went on to go 5-5 SU and 4-6 ATS in Week 2. So much for that advantage. Onto the second question: Ten games is still a small sample size, so you might find if you go further back in time, things get better for the HOF teams. I don’t have that kind of database power at my disposal, though. Feel free to educate us in the NFL betting forum if you haven’t already.

It still seems logical that the Bills would have at least a small advantage in preparation going into Saturday’s contest. If only we had a little more familiarity with Bills head coach Doug Marrone. He went 1-3 ATS during the 2013 preseason, his first with Buffalo and his first as an NFL head coach. You can make that 2-4 ATS now. Not good, but again, sample size.

 

Know Your Enemy
At least we have a body of work from Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin: 14-14-1 ATS heading into the 2014 campaign. Phooey. But as we told you last week, Tomlin also had the 'Under' at 17-11-1 in exhibition games. Conveniently enough, the Steelers played the New York Giants in Week 1, and the Giants were Buffalo’s opponents in the Hall of Fame Game. New York (–2.5 at home) made both betting angles pay off in a 20-16 victory ('Under' 36.5).

Shall we go for another 'Under'? It just so happens that Marrone’s Bills went 'Under' in three of their four 2013 preseason games, before splitting their first two games this year. And we’ve got an intriguing situation where the Steelers and Bills will be practicing together before their Week 2 contest, starting Wednesday afternoon in Latrobe, Penn. This should put a dent in whatever preparation advantage Buffalo had. The extra familiarity between the two teams could also lead to a closer game on the field with fewer offensive surprises.

 

Line Out
Speaking of offense, we’re not even halfway through August, and we can already tell that Pittsburgh’s offensive line is a mess. The Steelers immediately went off the rails last year when Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey blew out his right knee in the regular season opener. Pouncey is back, but new O-line co-ordinator Mike Munchak is installing a system with multiple looks that should take a while for Pouncey and his younger teammates to learn.

Buffalo’s offensive line was pretty bad at pass protection last year with 48 sacks allowed. This unit is also being re-tooled for 2014, with incoming guard Chris Williams from the St. Louis Rams, and second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio from Alabama at tackle. Better results are expected this year, but these things take time, and there’s not necessarily a lot of upside here. I’ll take the 'Under' in what should be a typical Rust Belt grind.

NFL Pick: Take UNDER 40 (–105) at Pinnacle