Everyone Loves Pittsburgh Except Contrarians When Making Wild Card Picks

Jason Lake

Friday, January 8, 2016 3:24 PM GMT

Friday, Jan. 8, 2016 3:24 PM GMT

Here come the squares. The playoffs start this weekend, and people can't wait to put the Pittsburgh Steelers in their football picks. But are they jumping the gun?

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NFL Pick: Bengals +3 (–105) 
Best Line Offered: at Bovada

How did you do with your NFL picks during the regular season? Probably around 50 percent, we figure. Profit margins are small in this business. But never fear: In the immortal words of Jim Ross, business is about to pick up. The playoffs are here, bringing a cadre of recreational bettors to the marketplace – most of them with small bets, others with big piles of money. And whom do recreational bettors love to pick? Favorites, of course.

So it is with this week's Wild Card action. According to our consensus reports, two of the three favorites involved (one of these games is a pick 'em at press time) are drawing a majority of bettors, and almost all of the monies wagered. The only outliers are the Houston Texans. We've already dealt with them, so let's look at the other three contests and see where Big Public might be handing us some betting value.

 

Best of D.C. Follies
Right off the bat, it's very strange to see Washington (9-7 SU and ATS) getting so much love for Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers (10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS). Our reports show 50.5 percent of bettors on D.C., with 87 percent of the monies wagered. That's good for an average bet of $882. Green Bay is “only” pulling in $123 per wager. Apparently Washington is a sharp selection as a PK at home.

How about the Seattle Seahawks (10-6 SU, 8-7-1 ATS)? They're the No. 1 team in Weighted DVOA at Football Outsiders, and they're the preferred pick for 61 percent of bettors, hauling in 94 percent of the action for Sunday's matchup versus the Minnesota Vikings (11-5 SU, 13-3 ATS). Would you take the Vikings as 5-point home dogs after they got shredded 38-7 by Seattle (–2.5 away) in Week 13? Some people would. But they're only betting $75 on average, compared to $733 from the Seattle faithful.

 

Steel Cents
That's chicken feed compared to the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS). They're getting an average bet of... is this correct? Our survey says $2,475. My word. That's from 60 percent of the betting population for Saturday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals (12-4 SU, 12-3-1 ATS), who are drawing just $98 a pop as 3-point home dogs on our NFL odds board.

If we're going to get any value out of the squares this week, it should be in this contest. The Bengals have famously lost four straight Wild Card games SU and ATS since the start of the Marvin Lewis-Andy Dalton Era, and Dalton is expected to miss Saturday's game with a broken thumb. But A.J. McCarron has played quite well in Dalton's absence; Football Outsiders has McCarron at +6.9 percent passing DVOA, still far behind Dalton at +32.0 percent, but hardly a disaster. The Bengals will have their Top-10 defense working for them, and there's an 80-percent chance of rain over Paul Brown Stadium, which should only benefit the home dogs. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me five times?

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