- The Bills and Steelers rank second and fourth in early-down pass rate over expected
The banged up Steelers head to Buffalo on another short week after their unbeaten season came to an end last Monday night. Already without Devin Bush and Bud Dupree, the Steelers will play Week 14 without Bush replacement Robert Spillane or cornerback Joe Haden. Their vaunted defense still has plenty of high-profile playmakers, but Sunday night will mark their third game in 12 days.
That might give the resurgent Bills the advantage after Buffalo got their offense going again last week in a 34-24 win over San Francisco. This game opened with Pittsburgh as road favorites, but it’s since moved to Bills -2. The Steelers are still the better team on paper by most measures, but it appears the early action is very much taking into account the recent Pittsburgh schedule and injuries.
A December night game in Buffalo always calls weather into question, but while this should be a cold atmosphere, there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of wind or precipitation in the forecast. That should clear the way for two of the AFC’s best teams to do what they prefer to on offense — pass the football. Per Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, the Bills rank second and the Steelers fourth in early-down pass rate over expected, a key metric that explains offensive intent. Both teams throw about 10 percentage points more than you’d expect given factors like down, distance, field position, time, score differential, and win probability.
The smart play sequencing has allowed both offenses to rank in the top 10 in passing success rate over the past six weeks, per Sharp Football Stats. Meanwhile, the Bills have been fairly average in this stat defensively and the Steelers, while leading the league, are banged up on that side of the ball. There are reasons to think these offenses can play efficiently in this one, but even if they can’t, a willingness to throw typically means more clock stoppages and more play volume. Buffalo and Pittsburgh both operate at a top-10 pace both on the season and over the past month, per Pat Thorman at Establish The Run.
On top of those trends, we have what will likely be a competitive game environment, which can lead to the types of close fourth quarters that cause scoring to shoot out. Both of these teams already want to be aggressive, but in what could be a close game that could prove pivotal for playoff seeding, I’m expecting their aggressiveness to be on full display.
The game total has also been moving in this one, and you guessed it, it’s on the rise. And yet, it’s still under 50 points in a season where scoring has ballooned league-wide. As long as a little cold weather doesn’t play too big of a role, the over looks fantastic.
NFL Expert Picks
Over 48.5 @ -110
NFL Free Picks
Week 14 ends with that huge divisional clash between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football that we're all waiting for! In between we have a full slate of games, with a number of divisional games and big matchups. Elsewhere we're set to see Jalen Hurts first start for the Philadelphia Eagles who have announced him as the starter this week.
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