Monday Night Football Preview

THE “BIG DIFFERENCE” BETWEEN 4-3 AND 3-4 IS AT STAKE IN MNF WHEN TEXANS VISIT STEELERS

It will become a major theme of Monday preview coverage on TV...what else can you talk about when the last two teams to take the field in Week 7 are both sitting right at the .500 mark with 3-3 records?! The Houston Texans are 3-3, trying to chase down the Indianapolis Colts at the top of the AFC South. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-3, and trying to chase down everyone else in the AFC North because Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Cleveland all have better records!

The winner of MNF moves to 4-3, and has a chance to compete for a playoff spot thanks to their winning record. The loser falls to 3-4, and becomes a much longer shot because they’d have to finish 7-2 to make it to 10 wins...and 3-4 caliber teams don’t often close with sparkling 7-2 finishes.

Could be a good omen for an exciting games since the teams seem relatively even and so much is at stake. Let’s crunch some numbers to see how things are likely to play out. Here are JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for Texans/Steelers.

Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Houston: 3-3 (ranked #27 according to USA Today)
Pittsburgh: 3-3 (ranked #29 according to USA Today)

Well, the good news is that the teams still look to be pretty even. The bad news is that they’ve both played very soft schedules according to the Jeff Sagarin computer ratings at USA Today. That means we’re probably not looking at a playoff caliber team in either case. Each might be 2-4 against a league average schedule.

Yards-Per-Play
Houston: 5.7 on offense, 5.7 on defense
Pittsburgh: 5.9 on offense, 5.7 on defense

That even nature continues in YPP. Houston is right at break-even. Though, again, that’s come against a weak schedule. Pittsburgh is just on the plus side...which is a big part of why many sportsbooks had Pittsburgh favored by more than the standard home field advantage of three points through the week. The Steelers are seen as slightly better.

Turnover Differential
Houston: +4
Pittsburgh: -1

This is where the markets may be in error...and could be behind late week sharp action on the underdog. Pittsburgh still hasn’t figured out how to force turnovers with their aging and inconsistent defensive unit (something we’ve been pointing for a few years now on these pages). Houston’s J.J. Watt is much more likely to influence the game as a defender. All of that shows up in this category...and this category clearly favors the visitor.

Market Performance
Houston: 4-2 ATS
Pittsburgh: 2-4 ATS

Houston has bounced back well from last year’s collapse, which allowed them to catch oddsmakers and big bettors by surprise. That’s a 67% cover rate for the Texans through six games. Pittsburgh has been overrated, with bad non-covers in losses to Tampa Bay and Cleveland...and a near-miss when they barely got the money at -6 in an 8-point win over lowly Jacksonville. A blowout win at Carolina really tricked the markets. Looks like a big outlier.

Current Line: Pittsburgh by 3.5, total of 44.5

As we write this up, Pittsburgh is -3.5 at most places...but some stores have been testing the key number of three. The opening price of Houston +4 is long gone. Sharps continue to take the Texans with little opposition. We would expect the public to play Pittsburgh at -3...and some sharps may jump in on the favorite at that price too. If you’re planning to bet Houston, take the hook before it’s gone. If you’re planning to bet Pittsburgh, may sure you get the three.

Better yet, DON’T MAKE A MOVE UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY! The final word for Monday will be up well in advance of kickoff. You can always purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about special offers on combination packages for football and the World Series (which begins Tuesday), call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with your tomorrow to talk about the World Series. Here’s the upcoming NOTEBOOK schedule...

Tuesday: World Series Game One Stat Preview (SF at Kansas City)
Wednesday: World Series Pitcher Analysis Games 2-5
Thursday: NFL Stat Preview...San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Friday: College Preview...Oregon at California (Friday Night danger for Ducks?)
Saturday: College Preview...TBA (probably Ole Miss at LSU, possibly Ohio State at Penn State or South Carolina at Auburn)

The battle for the college football championship tournament is really heating up. And, the playoff chase sure started early in the NFL. Will Houston or Pittsburgh make it to the brackets this season? JIM HURLEY has an idea about that. That means you’ll GET THE MONEY in MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL!

And be sure to follow Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley!

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Nov

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