The Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills in Sunday Night Football. The sports betting handle promises to be huge, and the lion’s share of money showing up at the sportsbook is coming for the Bills.
|Game: Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) vs Buffalo Bills (9-3)
Location: Bills Stadium
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin had a good thing going with the Buffalo Bills. Every couple of years they’d show up with a new coach — Dick Jauron, Chan Gailey, Doug Marrone, Rex Ryan — and Tomin’s Steelers would beat them. But last year (nearly to the day) without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers lost to Sean McDermott’s Bills by a touchdown. (NFL odds had Pittsburgh a slight favorite even with QB Devlin Hodges, make of that what you will.)
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The Steelers’ defense keeps taking a pounding. In the third quarter of their loss against Washington, ILB Robert Spillane tweaked his knee. What was feared to be a season-ending injury received a slightly better prognosis later in the week. Nevertheless, the team moved Spillane to the injured reserve which will keep him out until the last week of the regular season.
Worsening matters, Spillane was already the backup to Devin Bush, injured earlier in the year. The Steelers next-man-up strategy might not have as much success since they’re also losing ILB Vince Williams to the COVID-IR (IR-C). This is Williams’ second trip to the IR-C and comes with terrible timing.
Not a coincidence, the Steelers’ also designated ILB Ulysees Gilbert to return from injured reserve. It would have to be expected he’s suiting up, something he hasn’t done since Week 7, possibly with a greater expectation than just the special-teams role he played.
Also on the defense, late in last Monday’s game, CB Joe Haden sustained a concussion. He’s in the protocol and the team has listed him out for this Sunday night.
In the not-bad-news portion of the Steelers’ update, Pittsburgh activated C Maurkice Pouncey and RB James Conner from IR-C this week and they’re expected to fully play. Plus, WR Chase Claypool’s illness that kept him out of practice Thursday is clear and he’s now ready to go. On defense, CB Steven Nelson (knee) will be back this game after missing the last one. And K Chris Boswell’s hip feels good enough that he’s back at practice and ready to kick. (Godspeed, backup kicker Matthew Wright. They can’t blame you for the loss.)
Meanwhile over in Boring Town, the Bills have no questionable players.
The one player deemed out by the team is special-teams’ S Jaquan Johnson (ankle).
The few players that did appear on the injury report during the week — RG Jon Feliciano (knee), DT Quinton Jefferson (hip) and WR Andre Roberts (Achilles) — all practiced off it by the end of the week.
They activated OLB Tyrel Dodson to return from injured reserve. He hasn’t played since Week 6, but they should be able to use OLB Matt Milano more this week, as he was rather limited in his return last Monday.
Correction: Last week we projected practice-squad elevation wide receiver Jake Kumerow wouldn’t see the field. We were wrong. He played four snaps. Sorry, Jake.
On Tuesday morning when the NFL odds for this game came up, Pittsburgh opened as the short favorite. That lasted one hot second before the favorite flipped and the number was pounded to Bills -2½ by the evening. Money came back the other way on Thursday, and the line dropped to the current -2.
The total opened at 47 and bettors played the under, taking the number down to 46. Around that same time Thursday, heavy over action started, driving the total to its current 49.
With Vince Williams and Joe Haden out, imagining a scenario where Pittsburgh shuts down this Buffalo offense is difficult. We’d expect the market to react to the news as game time approaches and for this point spread to climb back up to -3, so we’ll play the Buffalo Bills -2 even with the extra juice. (Or for that matter, even at -2½.)
As for the total, expect a game where the Steelers will have to keep pace with the Bills, and play the total over 49. We wouldn’t be surprised to see it climb more, possibly a couple of points higher.