By Tim Graham
Las Vegas wise guys love the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The savviest bettors, the ones that make sportsbooks jump, have bet enough money on the Bills throughout the week to cut the spread in half.
The Pittsburgh Steelers opened as five-point favorites, but the spread has dwindled to 2.5 points at some offshore betting sites as of this posting.
"I thought five was a little high, especially with the possibility of EJ Manuel playing," Las Vegas handicapper and former oddsmaker Joel Staniszewski said. "As the week went on, it started to drop and drop and drop. With the announcement EJ Manuel's going to start, it dropped to three and with heavy juice on the Bills.
"They're definitely getting lots of bets. People who are betting enough money to move a line are the sharp bettors."
Who would've expected this three months ago?
The Steelers are perennial contenders. They haven't had a losing record since 2003. But they are 2-6 entering Sunday's game at Heinz Field and are coming off a loss in which they allowed a club-record 55 points.
"They appear to be teams in two different directions," Staniszewski said. "Pittsburgh appears to be getting older, where the stars just aren't performing like they used to. Buffalo has the young, up-and-coming players that might be one draft and offseason away from doing some damage."
Some trends for informational purposes:
- Buffalo is 1-4 straight up over its past five games.
- Buffalo is 1-5 against the spread over the past six games on the road.
- Buffalo is 1-7 straight up over the past eight games on the road.
- Buffalo is 1-8 against the spread and straight up in its past nine games against Pittsburgh.
However, and more importantly:
- Buffalo is 6-1 against the spread after its past seven straight-up losses.
- Pittsburgh is 1-5 against the spread over its past six straight-up losses.
"Those two stats are key for this year," Staniszewski said. "It's showing you the Bills, although a young team that has trouble finishing games, come back and play well -- even with Thad Lewis or Jeff Tuel at quarterback.
"The Steelers have done poorly and just are not playing well. Ben Roethlisberger is off his game. Their run game is not doing well. They're definitely on the decline."
A critical matchup is Buffalo's pass rush against a ramshackle Pittsburgh offensive line. Buffalo is tied for third with 29 sacks. Pittsburgh has surrendered 32, tied for second-most.
The Bills are 5-4 against the spread after starting the season 5-2.
taggedEJ Manuel | Jeff Tuel | On the line from Vegas | Thad Lewis