Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills Week 1 Predictions: Against the Spread, Total, and Props
The Week 1 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills is one of just five games on the NFL's season-opening slate that features two playoff teams from a year ago. It is also a rematch of a Week 14 game from a year ago, in which the Bills won 26-15 and helped kickstart the Steelers' downward spiral.
The perception of these teams entering 2021 is that the Steelers are old, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's best days are behind him, while the Bills will remain an AFC stalwart behind the young Josh Allen for years to come. So can Roethlisberger and the Steelers turn back the clock in this series opener, or will the Bills continue to prove that last year's run to the conference championship was no fluke?
Pittsburgh Steelers Preview
Pittsburgh's season ended disappointingly last year, considering they got off to an 11-0 start. They lost four of their last five games to end the regular season and looked nothing like a "Steel Curtain" defense in a 48-37 Wild-Card round loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Pittsburgh's offensive line is a big question mark entering the season. Left tackle Alejandro Villanueva signed a two-year deal with the rival Ravens, and center Maurkice Pouncey retired. They are replaced with Chukwuma Okorafor and J.C. Hassenauer, who have just 23 starts between them. How they block for Roethlisberger and open lanes for rookie running back Najee Harris will go a long way in determining how successful the offense can be.
The Steelers defense will again be a strength, especially up front, with T.J. Watt starting the season as one of the top candidates to take home Defensive Player of the Year. The loss of Bud Dupree will hurt, as the linebacker had eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss in just 11 games last year. However, an underrated move that may haunt Pittsburgh this year is the loss of cornerback Steven Nelson, which leaves the team thin all of a sudden in the secondary. Before panic sets in, the Steelers have allowed less than 300 passing yards in 27 consecutive games, so the cupboard is not exactly bare.
Buffalo Bills Preview
What does Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen have in store for an encore after last year's breakout? His ascent was one of the key reasons for their 13-3 record and runner-up finish in the AFC. Allen set career highs in nearly every category, including passing yards, completion percentage, and touchdowns. His instant rapport with Stefon Diggs was fascinating, as Diggs' 127 receptions and 1,535 yards led the league. The Bills finished second in total offense, and their 31.3 PPG was second to only Green Bay's 31.8. Buffalo's defense returns largely intact and is deeper at many positions, most notably at defensive end with the draft selection of Miami's Greg Rousseau.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills Betting Predictions
Many bettors will point to last year's meeting between these teams for an indication of how this year's game will play out. However, it is unfair to do that given the vastly different circumstances that game was played under, specifically the fact that a December game in Buffalo is much different than one in September.
That being said, from a prop betting perspective, one has to be impressed with Stefon Diggs' stat-line of 10/130/1 against Pittsburgh last year. The Steelers do not have anyone in the secondary who can cover him, and if Diggs can go off like that in frigid temperatures, he is in line for another massive game in optimal weather conditions.
It has been difficult for underdogs to upset Buffalo, as the Bills are 18-2 SU in their last 20 games as favorites. In addition, the Bills have won their previous seven home games by an average of 11.6 points per game. Buffalo's roster has several fewer question marks than Pittsburgh's heading into this season, specifically on the offensive line. Look for Bills head coach Sean McDermott to load the box and take away Najee Harris's running lanes while pressing Pittsburgh's receivers, given Roethlisberger's inability to push the ball downfield much last year.
The safest bet is laying the -6.5 points with the favored Bills but get on this spread early before it reaches the key number of -7 or beyond. Though the under has cashed in five of the last six meetings between these teams, the Steelers played many high-scoring games down the stretch last year, as the over cashed in each of their final four games. I want to wait and see if any defensive issues carry over to this season before firing on the total. But remember, no matter how their defense looks, they will not slow down Stefon Diggs.