NFL 2020 Week 11: Betting on Steelers & Vikings
Updated: Aug 5, 2021
7-Point Teaser (-140): Pittsburgh Steelers -3 & Minnesota Vikings -0.5
Our primary framework makes the Pittsburgh Steelers, the last undefeated team in the NFL, roughly two touchdowns (or more) better than the hosting Jaguars in week 11 action. This is after we account for the plan to fill TIAA Bank Field to 25% of capacity.
Restraining our optimism for the prospect of the road favorite cover in Jacksonville though, we note that the betting public commonly tends to undervalue big, home dogs.
In NFL conference play, teams getting at least ten in their building have been good for a 17% return on investment since 2003.
Further, when consensus expectations for a team are very low for the second week in a row, it has paid to take the points.
Double-digit underdogs who also received at least ten points in their prior contest have delivered an even more impressive 24% return on investment since 2003.
However, while teams in Pittsburgh's position have struggled to cover the chalk, the expectation of the straight up win appears reasonable, per history.
In an admittedly limited sample, undefeated teams laying double-digits in the back half of the regular NFL season have gone 12-2 SU since 2003.
Given that three is the most common margin in American professional football, the 86% market implied probability of a Steelers' straight up win (i.e. -600 odds) likely entails a margin of at least a field goal.
It also does not hurt our bet on Pittsburgh -3 that the Steelers boast the best ATS record and second-best average scoring margin in the League. The Jaguars, on the other hand, rank 30th by average scoring margin.
Separately, following a week 10 BYE, the Cowboys travel to the Vikings Sunday as underdogs of a touchdown. Our primary approach grades Minnesota as eight to ten points better than Dallas, considering no fans will be in attendance at U.S. Bank Stadium, and assuming Andy Dalton is under Center for America's Team.
Again here though, we observe historical context that calls into question Minnesota's ability to cover the chalk this week.
In aggregate, underdogs have not enjoyed a discernable benefit related to extra time off.
Point takers covered at a 49% rate on at least 10 days off.
However, road dogs that average no more than one win out of every four games played have delivered a 21% ROI against-the-spread in games after BYE weeks.
The drivers of this trend might be the betting public's penchant to eschew bad teams, even when the spread offsets their disadvantage, and a fundamental overvaluing of home field advantage.
This thinking finds support from the observation that traveling teams that win no more than 25% of the time are 55% ATS on the road since 2003.
When the bad road team is off a cover, like Dallas, who lost by 4 to the Steelers two weeks ago as 14-point underdogs, the historical win rate versus the number improves to 58%.
But for all the contextual support for Dallas collecting back-to-back covers, it should also be noted that Andy Dalton is the worst QB in the NFL to date with between 10 and 149 attempts. In contrast, Kirk Cousins' performance this year (by DYAR) pits him amongst the likes of Jared Goff, Dak Prescott (pre-injury), Philip Rivers & Kyler Murray. We think Dalton would have to muster an exceptional out to engineer the win Sunday...recent history deems such an outcome unlikely.
Bottom line: Our primary power rankings framework predicts Steelers and Vikings covers. Our interpretation of history dissents, however. We are teasing Pittsburgh and Minnesota, which is a bet on both outcomes, featuring enhanced spreads--in this case, an additional seven point cushion for each pick. The teaser both allows us to position in alignment with indications from our go-to NFL handicapping framework, while also considering the contrary messages history is conveying regarding the broader environment for these contests.