All summer, gamblers were trying to figure out what the correct betting line should be for the defending champ New England Patriots against the Pittsburgh Steelers on the first Sunday Night Football game of the NFL season.
This was, after all, an offseason of questions for both teams as their rosters were going to look a lot different than years past this fall. The Pats were having to replace arguably the best tight end of all-time in Rob Gronkowski, while the Steelers were going to be without both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Media from both cities spent the summer breathlessly expressing their opinions as to what each team would look like in 2019.
The end of the Patriots dynasty?!
Linemakers opened up with the Patriots at home as six-point favorites as fans spent the offseason talking about Tom Brady’s contract status and how the team was going to perform with a 42-year-old quarterback. The addition of a hand injury to Julian Edelman took up a lot of bandwidth, and then starting safety Patrick Chung got arrested for cocaine possession in New Hampshire. Many felt that the dynasty was coming to an end.
The Steelers hype went the other way as more and more media suggested that the team was going to be stronger without Bell and Brown because QB Ben Roethlisberger was going to have full control of the locker room now. Money on Pittsburgh started to come in and it drove the line as low at -5 at some sportsbooks before finally settling at -5.5 at kickoff.
This is where gamblers can get sucked in and where analytics and research can help you block out the noise. Going into Sunday Night Football, Tom Brady’s record was 5-0 at home against the Steelers. But if you listened to the “experts”, the Patriots should not have been giving up so many points. Pittsburgh had a reportedly fixed their defense this summer and the new defensive players on the roster were going to get the boys in black and gold an outright victory in Foxboro. It was time for Big Ben to take back the AFC from Tom Terrific.
Of course, that did not happen as the Patriots beat the living tar out of the Steelers 33-3.
Brady threw 341 yards and three touchdowns in the win and that was without Antonio Brown who was ineligible to play in Week 1 after he signed. What was interesting is that once Brown was acquired, bettors were taking the Pats to win the Super Bowl so much that their odds were driven down to a league-best +400.
However, the same thing wasn’t happening with the line for Sunday Night Football.
There was still a narrative that the old QB wasn’t going to have enough to keep up Pittsburgh and Patriots defensive strides that won them the Super Bowl last winter was just a mirage. Ignoring media narratives is important to be a successful gambler.
After the sixth win for Brady in Foxboro against Pittsburgh, his numbers are now simply incredible. The Pats QB has now completed 71% of his passes against the Steelers for 2,138 yards. The crazy stat is that he now has 21 touchdowns to 0 interceptions.
Be selective with the 24/7 social media machine
In hindsight, the Pats probably should have been 10-point favorites over the Steelers but because of all the noise around both teams, linemakers were scared to make a large line. That created value for bettors who were looking at the facts, not the hype. We all should have known a big Patriots victory was coming but most of us asked: “what if the media knows something I don’t?”
The lesson this week is to ignore the media noise and what the “experts” are saying and take a hard look at what each team from a cold, hard facts perspective. The Steelers cannot beat the Patriots in Foxboro and won’t until Brady and head coach Bill Belichick retire. The Patriots are now 5-1-1 ATS in games at home against Pittsburgh since 2002, with the only loss coming the year Brady hurt his knee and did not play.
A Brady-led offense for New England at home has averaged over 35 points per game against the Steelers and if they play again this season in the playoffs, expect more of the same. When the numbers are all pointing one way, don’t worry about what your local sports talk show host is telling you. More often than not, they are going to be dead wrong.
As Jay-Z once said “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”