With QB Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh never had a losing season. That’s a remarkable feat over 18 seasons from 2004 through 2021.
The franchise had the defense to sustain a 8-8 record in 2019 when Big Ben only played two games due to injury. The defense might have been even more crucial the past two seasons as the QB’s play dropped off.
Heading into 2022 without Roethlisberger, the markets expect this streak to end. For example, FanDuel has a win total of 7.5 (-105 on the over) in 17 games for the Steelers.
There is one reason that supports the under. Despite a playoff worthy record in 2021, Pittsburgh had a 9-2 record in one score games. This is even better than the 7-2 record in one score games from 2020.
The win percentage in one score games regresses to the mean of .500. Without similar fortune in 2022, the Steelers should project to winning fewer than half of their games.
The markets for Pittsburgh present a valuable opportunity. Let me explain.
At The Power Rank, NFL ratings at this time of year are derived from market win totals. My code finds a rating for each team consistent with their schedule and the price to go over/under their win total.
These market rankings make the Steelers a week 1 underdog of 5.0 points to Cincinnati. The week 1 markets have Cincinnati -6.5.
While one shouldn’t make too much of a single game, the same inconsistency also appears in week 2. Pittsburgh is a 1.5 underdog at home to New England. The market ratings from win totals make New England only a 0.1 point favorite.
Since these markets should be consistent, this presents a unique opportunity for a no hold market.
To understand a no hold market, consider a typical NFL spread bet. The price of -110 means you wager $1.10 for every $1 in winnings. This extra ten cents is the hold for a sports book.
What if you could wager $1 for every $1 won? This price of +100 on both sides of a spread is an example of a no hold market. If you picked games at random, you would not lose money in the long run.
No sports book has +100 on both sides of a spread. Instead, you need to look at related markets like win totals and game spreads to find a no hold market.
When the win total and game spreads are not consistent, this is an example of a no hold market. In this example with the Steelers, you have two options:
- Because of defensive stars like T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, you like the Steelers this season. Then you bet them +6.5 at Cincinnati and +1.5 vs New England.
- You think the Steelers are the luckiest team since two time Super Champion New York Giants, and the possibility of Mason Rudolph at QB makes you ill. Then you bet under 7.5 wins.
As discussed in The Logic of Sports Betting by Ed Miller and Matthew Davidow, this concept of market hold is crucial to winning at sports betting.
Free copy of The Logic of Sports Betting
In their foundational book, Ed Miller and Matthew Davidow provide the ultimate introduction into the sports betting world. Among other topics, they write about:
- The crucial concept of a no hold market
- The surprisingly simple procedure that market making sports books use to determine the spread (it’s not analytics)
- The truth about parlays
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