Just when you thought the Thursday Night Football matchup had hit rock bottom, we get the Patriots on the road in Pittsburgh. Fresh off getting blanked in a 6-0 loss to the Chargers (who rank 28th in DVOA defensively), the NFL’s worst scoring offense now takes on the top-five defense of the Steelers. Pittsburgh is only slightly better offensively than New England — and are now also playing with a backup quarterback.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about this game has been watching to see if any sportsbooks move the total below 30, which hasn’t happened since the early 90s. We aren’t there yet, but with a few hours until kickoff there’s still time.
NFL Live Betting for Thursday Night Football
I’ve got it around -1000 odds that no matter who you are, you have something better to do with your time then watch this game. I know bad NFL games are better than no NFL games, but does Bailey Zappe taking on Mitch Trubisky really even count as an NFL game?
However, for the masochists out there who insist on trying to bet this one live, there’s a fairly obvious path. Essentially, hope for some kind of fluky scoring early that pushes the total up, then hammer the under.
There’s not a single offensive unit from either team appreciably better than their defensive counterpart. The closest we come to that is the Patriots rushing offense — which ranks 14th in DVOA, against a Steelers rushing defense that ranks 15th. That also comes with the major caveat that Patriots starting running back Rhamondre Stevenson has been rules out, leaving the shell of Ezekiel Elliott in charge of the Patriots ground game.
Similarly, the Steelers pass offense is slightly better than the Patriots pass defense, but they’re also without their most relevant player.
From a pace perspective, this game plays slower than average, unless the Patriots get a multi-score lead. That’s extremely unlikely, as New England is barely implied for multiple scores, and is a five-point underdog against a tough defense. Even then, would you really feel comfortable betting the over?
The sharpest play here is probably to just take the pregame under, and check the score in the morning. But if a slightly higher number appears at any point, by all means take it.
How We Approach Live Betting in General
The NFL is perfect for live betting, with the pauses between plays providing plenty of time to get bets in. This season, I’ve built a model to project the pace of play under a variety of in-game scenarios. These include first vs. second half, as well as which team is leading or when the game is within a touchdown.
The primary benefit is for betting totals. If the game is going to be faster or slower than was assumed pregame, the application is obvious. Faster-paced games tend to produce more points. The broad assumption is that the pregame line is roughly efficient, so we want to target spots where we’re getting a better number in the direction that fits the scenario.
Player props also present some interesting opportunities. Sportsbooks are offering a variety of live player props, and faster or slower than expected games create obvious opportunities.
Take a look around various books before placing bets, though. There tends to be more variation between shops in live markets than there is pregame.
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