This weekend brings the betting public – and of course the fans – the 3rd week of NFL preseason games. Let’s face it though, this really signifies nothing, with the only exception being that we’re now just a few short weeks away from the ACTUAL NFL season starting (go AWAY preseason, please!). However, I am intrigued by this particular matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills, which is set to kick off at 4 pm EST.
Totals and Spread Bets on the Pittsburgh Steelers
As of right now, you can bet on the Steelers at +3 (-125) at Bovada.lv, which is actually a pretty solid bet as of the time of this write-up. The line might move come game time so monitor this closely before making your wager.
The over/under is set at 42.5 (-110) but I don’t see a ton of points getting thrown up in this game. If there’s a good line for 1st half totals, I may be tempted to fire an “Over” bet on that line.
As far as the matchup is concerned, I love the Steelers ability to score early and often in this game, especially with most of their first team squad ready to take the field for most of the first half. They are also coming off a nice 24-19 win against the Green Bay Packers last week and will be riding a little bit of momentum into this game.
“Big Ben” Roethlisberger will be suiting up yet again and should go a little bit deeper into the 2nd quarter this time around, which will give ample opportunity for the 2-time Super Bowl champion to air it out to his receiving corps of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton. Did I mention Le’Veon Bell is still eligible to play and will undoubtedly get a lot of first half reps before taking the 2nd half off? Combine him with the Black and Gold’s young, quick defense then you just may have a recipe for success against a weaker Buffalo Bills squad.
The Steelers will sorely miss the possession machine that is Bell in the regular season, as their cowbell running back will be serving a suspension for the first 3 games of the season for a substance abuse violation under the NFL’s code of conduct. In a surprisingly similar twist of fate, the aforementioned Martavis Bryant is also slated to miss the first 4 games of the regular season for testing positive for marijuana. That suspension is currently under appeal.
Point Spread on the Buffalo Bills
The Bills will actually be opening up as a favorite in this game. Take the time to sign up at Bovada.lv to bet on the Bills at -3 (+105) and earn a 50% instant bonus up to $250.
First off, I’m not super in love with the Bills as 3-point favorites, as they will be missing elite running back Lesean McCoy and still have unresolved issues at quarterback. Secondly, the Bills will be resting more than 10 players in this game, including elite receivers Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins. In football, this is basically the equivalent of taking the bacon out of a BLT – yea, it’s just as bad as that analogy tastes…
As previously mentioned, it is unclear how long EJ Manuel will remain at quarterback in this game. Though, what is clear is that head coach Rex Ryan saw enough good things out of Manuel in this week’s practice to warrant him starting against a young and hungry Steelers defense.
“I wanted an opportunity with the first team offense and show what I can do with those guys,” said Manuel. “I’ve had opportunities in practice and I think I’ve done well with that. Now it’s time to carry it over to the game.” Whether or not he can carry anything over into this game is yet to be seen, but the young QB has thrown for 1 touchdown in each of his first 2 preseason games this year.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Buffalo Bills Picks
Let’s face it, the Bills are facing an uphill battle in this one. Yes, they’re coached by arguably one of the best defensive coaches in the history of the league in Rex Ryan, but the fact of the matter is they will be short-handed most of the game on offense and no defense in the world will be able to contain Pittsburgh and a healthy Ben Roethlisberger – at least in the first half.
The Steelers will look to capitalize fast and often as they hope to eat up the ground game with Le’Veon Bell and confuse the Bills secondary with combination slants and deep routes from Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Markus Wheaton is no slouch at wideout either and you can expect either one of these guys to catch at least one touchdown come Saturday afternoon.
The only chance the Bills have at making this a game is if EJ Manuel keeps his composure and uses his legs to get himself out of some early jams. 3rd down conversions will be crucial if he looks to keep up with the Steelers fast linebackers. If the Buffalo D can keep Pittsburgh honest, it could be a tight matchup even when both sides have their 2nd and 3rd string players in late in the game.