NFL Week 16: Betting Kansas City Chiefs @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Several approaches we consult in our pro football handicapping efforts point to the Chiefs getting the cover this afternoon at Heniz Field. First, from the purview of power rankings, the Don Best/Linemakers sort makes Kansas City 0.5 better than Pittsburgh on a neutral field. This system ascribes a 2.5 point value to the the Black and Yellow's home field advantage. Thus, per Don Best/Linemakers, there is 1 point of value betting the Chiefs against the number.
Similarly, Massey-Peabody also ranks Kansas City above PIttsburgh. The esteemed Rufus Peabody has the Chiefs as more than three points better than the Steelers on neutral turf, suggesting the game is somewhere around a PICK in Pittsburgh.
We also surveyed mainstream NFL Power Ranking lists from ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, NFL.com, Sports Illustrated and USA Today. The most listed PIttsburgh above Kansas CIty. In fact, the median rank for the Steelers is 10.5, versus 13 for the Chiefs. So while consensus believes Pittsburgh is the better team, the pundits are also fairly unified in thinking that the gap between these teams is not huge.
The public, like the professional analyst community, is solidly behind Pittsburgh. Sportsinsights reports that more than two-thirds of spread bets they monitor favor the Steelers. Interestingly this widespread support has not caused the spread to widen as one might intuitively expect. Instead, the spread has narrowed from an opening line of Kansas City +3 to +2.5 currently. This reverse line movement supports our play, possibly hinting that smart money has come in on the Chiefs.
Kansas City is a playoff outsider currently, however, the Chief's quest for this year's post-season is not entirely over. Wins today and next week are mandatory to keep hope alive. In contrast to Kansas City's modest 21% chance of playing into January, Pittsburgh sports an 85% probability of a playoff appearance (numbers based on the work of FiveThirtyEight). Thus the Chiefs need this game more. We expect KC to demonstrate a level of mental sharpness consistent with the gravity of today's contest.
Betting trends: The Chiefs are 4-1 in the last five matchups with the Steelers (but have been bigger underdogs in many of those games) and are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 road games (Kansas City is 4-4 on the road this year). Pittsburgh is 3-3 versus the number at home this year and is 6-0 in their last half dozen games against teams with winning records.
Per FiveThirtyEight, Elo ratings, adjusted by a standard home field advantage factor, offer a dissenting opinion and see PIttsburgh as 4.5 points better at home.
Bottom line: Our work suggests the Steelers are not much better than the Chiefs (if at all). We therefore see value taking the points and betting Kansas City to cover.