If you're going to consider placing a bet on any Pittsburgh Steelers game this season, the first thing you have to do is check the injury report. It's practically impossible to keep up with who is playing for this team.
Here's what we have for Thursday night's matchup at Tennessee: Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley are out, and James Harrison and Rashard Mendenhall are listed as probable. These are four of the best players in the game. For the Titans, Matt Hasselbeck again will be starting at quarterback in place of Jake Locker.
What's fascinating about this, from a line perspective, is that Pittsburgh's injuries are having a bigger impact on the spread (currently Steelers minus-6) than Tennessee's, even though the Titans are missing their starting quarterback.
If you haven't yet, take a moment to read ESPN The Magazine editor in chief Chad Millman's interesting blog post that details the NFL players who impact a line most dramatically. Obviously, the quarterbacks lead the list. But once we move to defense, according to the Millman Rankings, Polamalu (2.0 points) impacts the spread almost as much as any other defensive player; Locker didn't even make the list.
If you want to consider a strong trend that has been developing thus far this year, consider that Tennessee is a home underdog. Betting on those teams has been highly profitable this season as they have an 18-11 record against the spread. Simply betting underdogs has been effective as well in 2012 (43-32-2 ATS).
According to ESPN Insider's PickCenter, the public is backing the Steelers at a 62.6 percent rate. Wait, the public likes the favorite and one of the most popular teams in the country? Shocker.
Spread: Opened at Steelers minus-6.5, now Steelers minus-6
Total: Opened at 43, now 43.5