Saturday Night Football Betting: Why Should You Back the Steelers Over the Raiders?

Thanks to the holiday weekend, the schedule is a bit quirky in the NFL. And as we are enjoying some much needed respite and family time, the marquee matchup on Christmas Eve is the nightcap. So fill up your cups with some well-spiked egg nog and get ready for a clash of sub-.500 teams fighting to stay alive in the playoffs.

Per our power rankings, it may not be the greatest of matchups.

The host Pittsburgh Steelers sit at 6-8 and are 15th in our ranks, while the also 6-8 Las Vegas Raiders are only 25th. The road Raiders beat the Steelers in Week 2 of 2021 by nine points (26-17).

This time around, the home Steelers are 2.5-point favorites, and the over/under sits at 38.5 points.

Let’s dive in and see if we can uncover any interesting betting angles for this contest.

Breaking Down the Matchup

Though these teams have the same record, the quarterback battle is pretty one-sided.

This season, 36 passers have recorded 150 or more drop backs, and Derek Carr has shined far brighter than Kenny Pickett, who is slated to start for the Steelers.

In terms of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), Carr's numbers surpass Pickett's by a significantly wide margin. Over 496 drop backs, Carr has posted a 0.12 Passing NEP per drop back mark -- whereas Pickett ranks 27th of the 36 qualified passers at -0.02. Carr ranks 14th.

As far as the backfields go, Najee Harris didn't practice Wednesday with a hip injury, but he was upgraded to full on Thursday. In his sophomore campaign, Harris has carried the ball 211 times for 790 yards and 6 scores. Unfortunately, he hasn't been the most efficient of runners. Among the 28 runners with 150 or more carries, Harris ranks fourth-worst with a -0.04 Rushing NEP per rush.

Not only has Josh Jacobs been an absolute unit in rushing the ball (logging 291 carries), he's been highly efficient with a 0.11 Rushing NEP per carry mark in 2022. That's the third-best rate among qualified backs. Add in his 46 catches this season, and he's at nearly 340 touches. He's a big reason this offense has been so solid.

Offensively, it's clear that the Las Vegas Raiders are the better team, ranking 10th overall and in the passing game, via our per-play metrics. Pittsburgh's 10th-ranked running attack isn't anything to scoff at, but they are 19th overall.

Defensively, the Raiders have the second-worst unit in the league. Pittsburgh is substantially better at 16th overall and ranks 8th against the run.

The Betting Numbers

As I said at the jump, the Steelers are 2.5-point home favorites, and the total has been set at 38.5 points, primarily due to the effects of Winter Storm Elliott.

Neither team has been particularly wonderful against the spread (ATS). The Steelers are 7-6-1 this year, and the Raiders are 7-7.

Interestingly, the Raiders have been very poor against sub-.500 teams. In their last 11 games in the split, they are only 2-9 straight up. However, when these two teams play, the Raiders have owned the series recently. They are 4-1 head-to-head and 5-0 ATS in the last five meetings against the Steelers.

Our algorithm sees this as a lopsided contest, predicting a 7.0-point win for the home Steelers to keep them firmly in the playoff chase. That makes Pittsburgh -2.5 a four-star bet.

When all is said and done, the Steelers are roughly a league-average team in terms of overall efficiency thanks to a balanced offense and defense, and they get home-field advantage.

The Raiders, for as good as their offense can be, are just 25th in our power rankings and are expected to lose to an average team at a neutral site by 4.36 points. Adjustments from there just put too much value on the Steelers as only 2.5-point favorites to ignore.

The over is a five star bet -- we see the over hitting 79.0% of the time.

In the prop market, backing Jacobs over at FanDuel Sportsbook is pretty spicy. His rushing prop sits at only 82.5 yards (-110).

If recent history can serve as a good guidepost for us, Jacobs is likely to destroy this prop. In his last five games, Jacobs has run for 90-plus yards, including marks of 109, 229, and 144 yards. Jacobs also clearly sees a heavy workload -- he's totaled 20-plus carries in each of the last six games.

We project him for over 100 rushing yards. While he faces a Steelers rushing defense that is top-eight in yards per game allowed, they allowed over 200 rushing yards to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14 and 146 rushing yards to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13.