The Pittsburgh Steelers have already played twice as much preseason football as the Green Bay Packers. Will that experience be enough to beat the football odds this Sunday?
So much for being prepared. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a considerable advantage going into Week 1 of the 2015 preseason: They had already played in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Dating back to 2008, teams in that situation were 8-4 ATS against opponents making their exhibition debuts; you can make it 8-5 ATS now, after the Steelers (PK away) lost 23-21 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Next up for Pittsburgh are the Green Bay Packers, who beat the New England Patriots 22-11 last week as 2.5-point road dogs. The Steelers still have that extra week under their belts, but is it of any use to us? Teams playing Game No. 3 against opponents who are stuck on Game No. 2 are 5-7 ATS since 2008. Guess we'll have to find some other betting angles for Sunday's matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, NFLN). At press time, Pittsburgh is a 2.5-point home chalk on the NFL odds board.
Going back to our preseason ATS records for head coaches, Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin has fallen to 15-19-1 ATS after dropping the cash in both games this year, while Green Bay's Mike McCarthy improved to 19-17 ATS after beating the Patriots. Slim advantage to the Packers. Sadly, there's even less for us to work with against the total: Tomlin has the UNDER at 21-13, while McCarthy has the OVER at 24-13.
All right, how about those back-up quarterbacks then? Third-stringer Landry Jones played the entire Hall of Fame Game for Pittsburgh against the Minnesota Vikings, then he played almost the entire game last week against the Jaguars. Jones wasn't particularly impressive in either game, although a dropped TD pass by rookie WR Shakim Phillips could have made the difference against Jacksonville. No. 2 QB Bruce Gradkowski was activated off the PUP list Sunday, so he'll probably get some reps in against Green Bay.
At the other end, the Packers gave starting QB Aaron Rodgers a little extra work against New England, in their first game with offensive co-ordinator Tom Clements in charge of calling plays. But all four of Green Bay's quarterbacks played well last week. Scott Tolzein is the latest in a long line of solid preseason Packer pivots; he was 10-for-16 against the Pats with a touchdown and no picks.
Injuries haven't been much of a concern for the Packers during training camp, so we're leaning toward Green Bay in this situation, even with Gradkowski on his way back. Our early consensus numbers, on the other hand, show 87-percent support for the Steelers after bettors were split 50-50 in early trading. We'll stick with the Packers anyway. And given the choice between +2.5 (+100) and +3 (–120), we'll take the latter, since that half-point is worth 21.4 cents according to the Wizard of Odds. Pennies from heaven.
Free NFL Pick: Take the Packers +3 (–120) at BetDSI