NFL Week 8 Leveraging Tails: Bet on Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars to take down the Pittsburgh Steelers

2T1Y10P Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

• The Steelers offense is mispriced: The market prices the Steelers offense as the 19th-best in the NFL, even though the unit's fundamentals tell a far different story.

• Jacksonville with an added advantage: The Steelers have generated pressure at a well above-average rate so far, which has hidden their weaknesses in their secondary at times. However, Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence has gotten rid of the ball in just 2.53 seconds on average, one of the quickest marks in the NFL, often delivering strikes before the pass rush can get home. 

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Many bettors place wagers in multiple markets — spreads, totals, teasers, props, etc. — where they generally get oriented by following a bottom-up approach: “Which spreads do I like?” or “Which totals stand out this week?”

However, the goal in this space is to follow a top-down approach. We will take a deep dive into one game a week and consider how bettors can best apply a specific theory on a team, player or trend and capitalize on it in the betting market.

Some bets will track more traditional markets, but we will more often look to maximize our upside in the multitude of different markets offered by sportsbooks.

Best Bets

Jacksonville Jaguars -6.5 (+190)
QB Trevor Lawrence: 300 passing yards & Jacksonville Jaguars -5.5 (+1917)

• While the spread for this game is within a field goal, there is a big difference in how well these two teams have moved the ball.

• The Jaguars offense is nearly 0.7 points per drive better than the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ outfit, while the defenses are similar above-average units.

• It is one thing to source the offensive efficiency in the abstract, but if we’re trying to unearth betting value, we must look at this relative to market pricing. And the market prices the Steelers offense as the 19th-best in the NFL, even though the unit's fundamentals tell a far different story.

Matchup Angles

• Part of the reason for the Steelers' offensive struggles is their inability to scheme anyone open. For two years running, quarterback Kenny Pickett has thrown into tight windows 25% of the time, by far the highest rate in the league.

• The probability of an interception on these tight-window throws is six times greater than on a throw to an open receiver. The average success rate on these throws is also worse than the worst NFL offense over a season.

• Almost half of Pickett’s dropbacks have been perfectly covered by the opposing defense, which is something the Steelers signal-caller has struggled to overcome, as he ranks in the bottom five at the position in expected points added (EPA) per play on plays where he defense holds up.

• Even after welcoming back receiver Diontae Johnson, this offense has serious structural problems, and the market is giving them far too much credit.

• The Steelers have lined up in man coverage at one of the highest rates in the NFL, which is an issue, considering their weaknesses in the secondary.

• The Steelers' best starting cornerback, Patrick Peterson, has earned a 54.6 PFF grade through seven weeks, 98th among 125 qualifiers. Simply put, the Steelers corners will have their hands full against Christian Kirk and Calvin Ridley.

• This is especially true considering how dominant Trevor Lawrence has been against man coverage since joining with head coach Doug Pederson. In each of the last two seasons, Lawrence has been elite against man coverage.

• Further elevating this matchup for the Jags is that they are primed to take away Pittsburgh's biggest matchup advantage. The Steelers have generated pressure at a well above-average rate, which has hidden their weakness in their secondary at times. However, Lawrence has gotten rid of the ball in just 2.53 seconds on average, one of the quickest marks in the NFL, often delivering strikes before the pass rush can get home. 

The bottom line

The market seems to be pricing the Steelers offense at a premium, which is a mistake, given the structural and schematic issues. The matchup sets up perfectly for the Jaguars, making me comfortable betting on them to win by a margin and on Lawrence to lead the way.

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