The Pittsburgh Steelers are 14 point underdogs in their coming Week 4 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, the most they have been under Head Coach Mike Tomlin. This spread is not without merit, as they are coming off a loss to the New York Jets at 1-3 to face a red hot Bills team led by All-Pro quarterback Josh Allen. Not to mention, on the road. This begs the question, how have teams fared when the opposition is favored by two touchdowns or more?
Since 2010, NFL teams are 10-77 (.115) when the Vegas line has them as 14 + point underdogs. Based on this alone, the Steelers have an 11.4% chance at pulling the upset in Buffalo. Interestingly, six out of the ten victories were determined by more than one score, with the underdog handily winning their matchup. Moreover, half of these upsets came from road teams, which the Steelers are this week. Presumably, the favored team had an off game in said underdog victories.
Of the four closely contested upset matchups in question, two took place between division rivals. Division matchups are tightly contested and often unpredictable. Given that the Bills are not in the Steelers’ division, his article will focus on the two remaining underdog victories that were determined by close margins to give perspective on what a potential Steelers upset may look like.
1) Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars 2021 Week 9: Jaguars win 9-6 as 14.5 point underdogs.
A relatively recent and memorable game, this featured the Steelers coming opponent just one season ago. To say that this game was unexpected is an understatement. For the Bills high powered offense to be held without a touchdown and lose to an offense that did not score a touchdown is the definition of a fluke. While the Steelers played well against Allen and the Bills offense last season in Week 1, they did so with T.J. Watt, and missing him will add to the challenge.
2) New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams 2020 Week 15: Jets win 23-20 as 17.5 point underdogs.
A 23-20 mid-scoring and narrow victory is a more realistic type of game that Pittsburgh can pull the upset in on Sunday. In this game, the Jets pass rush came alive with a 28% pressure rate, and former Rams quarterback Jared Goff was mostly held in check. On the other side of the ball, Jets former quarterback Sam Darnold had a commendable, and perhaps most impactful for this upset, mistake-free performance. Pass-rush will be the name of the game for Pittsburgh against Josh Allen to have any chance of holding his offense in check, and quarterback Kenny Pickett cannot afford to give Buffalo any extra possessions in his first start.
Needless to say, a Sunday victory is a longshot for Pittsburgh on Sunday. However, as this article points out, crazier things have indeed happened. With professional athletes lining up against each other, anything is possible. If one thing is for sure, however, it’s that Pittsburgh will need to have its best game this season to beat the odds.