NFL Week 15 early odds: Steelers open as home underdog and why that could be good

It's not often that an 11-2 team opens up as a home underdog, but that's exactly what's happening this week. 

In the early odds for Week 15, the Steelers have opened as a 3-point underdog to the Patriots, which might actually turn out to be a good thing for Pittsburgh and that's mainly because no one in the NFL has been better than Ben Roethlisberger when playing as a home underdog. 

Since Big Ben's rookie year in 2004, the Steelers have only been a home underdog a total of 12 times and what they've done in those 12 games is actually pretty impressive. Not only are the Steelers 8-3-1 against the spread (ATS), but they also have a strong track record of pulling off the upset, going 8-4 straight-up. 

Of the 12 games the Steelers have played as a home dog in the Roethlisberger era, three of them have come against the Patriots. Although the Steelers have a horrible track record against the Patriots -- they're just 3-10 overall since 2000, including the playoffs -- they're 2-1 when they play New England as a home underdog. 

The two wins game in 2011 and 2004 while the one loss came last season when the Patriots covered a 7.5-point spread in a 27-16 win. The big thing to keep in mind with last year's game is that Roethlisberger wasn't even playing. The Steelers were forced to start Landry Jones after Big Ben missed two games with a knee injury. Basically, this means that Roethlisberger has never personally lost to the Patriots as a home underdog. 

As for the rest of the odds this week, the Jaguars are an 11-point favorite for the first time in forever. The 8-5 Titans are barely favored to beat a 3-10 team and several point spreads are off the book right now due to some serious quarterbacking question marks. 

Let's get to the odds and check all of that out. 

NFL Week 15 early odds

(All lines from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, all games on Sunday unless noted)

Broncos (4-9) at Colts (3-10), Thursday

Opening line: Broncos, -2.5 points

The easiest way to lose a bet this year has been taking the Broncos in a road game. Through 14 weeks, not only are the Broncos 0-6 in road games, but they're also 0-6 ATS, which is the worst road mark in the NFL (even the Browns have covered in at least one road game). As for the Colts, as bad as they've been this season, they've actually done respectably well against the spread at home. Although they're 2-4 straight-up at Lucas Oil Stadium, they're 4-2 ATS. The Broncos haven't won in Indy since 2003. This will mark the first Broncos-Colts game since 1993 that won't have either Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck as a starting quarterback.

Bears (4-9) at Lions (7-6), Saturday

Opening line: Lions, -6.5 points

This game will mark the seventh time this season that the Bears have been an underdog of six or more points, and let's just say, they haven't been a safe bet. In the six prior games, the Bears went 1-5 straight-up and 2-4 ATS. On the other hand, betting the Lions might not be the answer here. Detroit is just 2-4 ATS at home this season, which is tied for the second worst mark in the NFL. These two teams played back in Week 11 and pushed a three-point spread in a 27-24 game won by the Lions, who were favored. The fact that the Lions won really wasn't that shocking, Detroit has won eight of the past nine games in this series. 

Chargers (7-6) at Chiefs (7-6), Saturday

Opening line: Chiefs, -1 point

In an AFC West showdown that no one saw coming, the Chargers and Chiefs will be battling for first place on Saturday (Yup, this game is on Saturday). There's a lot of reasons to like the Chargers in this game, and one of those reasons is that they're 7-2 ATS in their past nine games. They're also on a four-game winning streak. Oh, and they're 4-1-1 ATS in road games this year, which is tied for the best mark in the NFL. The one reason you might want to stay away from the Chargers is because they can never beat the Chiefs. The Chiefs have won seven straight in this series and are 4-2 ATS in home games this season. These two teams played earlier this season with the Chiefs covering as a three-point favorite in a 24-10 win. 

Dolphins (5-7) at Bills (7-6)

Opening line: No Line

The biggest mystery in this game is whether or not Tyrod Taylor is going to play. There's no point spread here because no one knows if Taylor or Nathan Peterman will be under center for the Bills. Peterman made his second start of the season on Sunday and did a good job of handing the ball to LeSean McCoy, who rushed for 156 yards in Buffalo's win. The Bills have won four of their past five at home against the Dolphins. The Bills are 5-2 at home this year and 4-2-1 ATS. 

Ravens (7-6) at Browns (0-13)

Opening line: Ravens, -7 points

The Ravens have absolutely owned the Browns lately with wins in 17 of their past 19 games against Cleveland dating back to 2008. One thing the Ravens haven't done well lately is cover large point spreads in December. Since 2012, the Ravens are 0-6 ATS in December games where they're favored by five or more points (4-2 straight-up). Overall, the Ravens are 4-11 ATS in their past 15 games where they're favored by five or more points. On the other hand, betting the Browns is never a good idea. Cleveland is 3-10 ATS on the season, which is the worst mark of any team in the NFL this year. 

Bengals (5-8) at Vikings (10-3)

Opening line: Vikings, -10 points

This will be the largest point spread the Bengals have faced since drafting Andy Dalton in 2011. In Dalton's career, the Bengals have only been an underdog of seven or more points a total of seven times and they're 3-3-1 in those games. One odd thing to note is that two of those three covers came against NFC teams, including earlier this year when the Bengals lost to the Packers 27-24 as a 7-point underdog. Dalton is also 9-4-2 straight-up in his past 15 games against NFC teams. That being said, you should almost never bet against the Vikings. Not only are they 9-4 ATS this season -- the second best mark in the NFL -- but they're also 5-1 ATS at home in 2017. Also, since hiring Mike Zimmer in 2014, the Vikings are 12-3 ATS against AFC teams, which is the best mark of any team in the NFL. The Bengals will be looking for their first win ever in Minnesota, where they're 0-5 all-time. 

Jets (5-8) at Saints (9-4)

Opening line: No Line

Oddsmakers are holding off on making a point spread for this game because they likely want to know who's going to be starting at quarterback for the Jets this week. Josh McCown suffered a broken hand against the Broncos on Sunday, which means he likely won't be able to play. With McCown out, the Jets will likely turn to Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg. Whoever gets the job will be heading into a hornet's nest. The Saints are 5-1 at home this year, including 4-2 ATS. The Jets haven't won in New Orleans since 2001. 

Eagles (11-2) at Giants (2-11)

Opening line: No Line

You won't see a point spread for this game until oddsmakers have confirmed the status of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Philadelphia's team doctors believe Wentz has a torn ACL, which would end his season. If Wentz is out, that means Nick Foles, who hasn't started a game since November 2016, will be under center for the Eagles. Although the Eagles have been the NFL's safest bet this season, going 10-3 ATS, there's no telling how they'll play with Foles at quarterback. One thing the Eagles will have going for them is that they've won six of the past seven games in this series. 

Cardinals (6-7) at Redskins (5-8)

Opening line: Redskins, -4 points

The Cardinals are traveling cross-country this week to play in a stadium where they haven't won in nearly 20 years: FexEx Field. Since opening in 1997, the Cardinals have gone 1-8 at FedEx Field, with their only win coming back in November 1998. If you're looking for free money, betting against the Cardinals in a game that kicks off at 1 p.m. ET has pretty much been a lock recently. Since the beginning of the 2016 season, the Cardinals have gone 1-9 straight-up and 0-10 ATS in games with a TV kickoff time of 1 p.m. ET. Also, the Cardinals are just 1-5 ATS in road games this season. The only reason the Redskins aren't a lock is because they've been horrible at covering in home games this year. Although Washington is 3-3 at home, they're just 2-4 ATS, which is tied for the second worst mark in the NFL this season. 

Packers (7-6) at Panthers (9-4)

Opening line: No Line

This could be finally the week where Aaron Rodgers returns, but since no one knows if he'll actually be playing on Sunday, oddsmakers haven't set a line for this game. Although Rodgers is eligible to play against Carolina, he still has to be medically cleared. In the five games this year where Rodgers played all four quarters, the Packers went 4-1 both straight-up and ATS. Without Rodgers, the Packers have gone 3-5 straight-up and 4-4 ATS. As for the Panthers, they're 8-5 ATS this year, which is tied for the fourth best mark in the NFL. If Rodgers does play, he's 2-1 in his career against Cam Newton

Texans (4-9) at Jaguars (9-4)

Opening line: Jaguars, -11 points

If this point spread seems huge for the Jaguars, that's because it is. The 11-point spread marks the first time since 2007 that the Jags have been favored by 11 or more points. The Jags were favored by 10 points in a game earlier this year against the Colts and they covered in a 30-10 win. These two teams played back in Week 1 with the Jags covering as a 5.5-point underdog in a 29-7 win. Although the Texans had Tom Savage in the game, they might not have him on Sunday. Savage was diagnosed with a concussion in Week 14 and if he can't go, that means we're going to see third-string quarterback T.J. Yates against the Jaguars top-ranked defense. Although the Jags are 8-5 ATS this year, they're just 4-3 at home. 

Rams (9-4) at Seahawks (8-5)

Opening line: Seahawks, -1 point

The Chargers aren't the only team from L.A. that will be in a divisional showdown on Sunday. The Rams will also be playing for first place. One reason to like the Seahawks in this game is because Russell Wilson is 11-3 all-time in December home games. Although the Seahawks have usually been a safe bet at home, that hasn't been the case this year with Seattle going just 2-4 ATS (but 4-2 straight-up). The Rams are the one divisional opponent the Seahawks haven't been able to dominate recently, with each team winning four games in their past eight meetings. These two teams played earlier this year with the Seahawks covering as a 2-point underdog in a 16-10 win. 

Patriots (10-2) at Steelers (11-2)

Opening line: Patriots, -3 points

If there's one team out there the Steelers always have some serious trouble beating, it's the Patriots. Since the beginning of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era, the Patriots have played the Steelers a total of 12 times, including the playoffs, and gone 10-2 against them. In the past four meetings between these two teams, the Patriots have gone 4-0 straight-up and 3-0-1 ATS. If the Steelers are going to end their losing streak this year, they're going to have do knock off one of the NFL's best road teams. Going into Monday's game with the Dolphins, the Patriots were 6-0 on the road and 5-1 ATS, which is the best mark in the NFL. One weird nugget in this series is that the Patriots have lost every regular season game against the Steelers where they've been favored by one to three points (0-3). That's right, all three of Pittsburgh's wins came when they were an underdog of one to three points like they will be on Sunday. 

Titans (8-5) at 49ers (3-10)

Opening line: Titans, -1 point

Jimmy Garoppolo's run probably won't last forever, but right now, he's the safest bet in sports. The 49ers quarterback has started a total of four games in his career -- two with San Francisco and two with New England -- and he's 4-0 both straight-up AND against the spread in those games. In two starts this year, both on the road, Garoppolo has led the 49ers to two upset wins. The big difference this week is that it will be his first home game as a 49ers player. Although the 49ers are a decent 7-6 ATS this season, they're just 2-4 at home. As for the Titans, they're 3-4 on the road and just 2-5 ATS away from home, which is one of the worst road marks in the NFL. 

Cowboys (7-6) at Raiders (6-7)

Opening line: Cowboys, -2.5 point

This isn't technically a playoff elimination game, but it kind of feels that way with both teams clinging to faint playoff hopes. If the Cowboys want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they're going to have to do something they haven't done since 1995: Win in Oakland. The good news for the Cowboys is that they've looked good on the road this year, going 4-2 both straight-up and ATS. On the other hand, the Raiders have been horrible at covering the spread this year, going 4-8-1 ATS, which is tied for the fourth worst mark in the NFL. However, they have done well against NFC teams lately, going 3-1 straight-up in their past four games. One thing to keep in mind is that both teams are have actually been playing well in prime-time. Derek Carr is 6-2 straight-up in his career at night while Dak Prescott is 8-2. 

Falcons (8-5) at Buccaneers (4-9)

Opening line: Falcons, -4.5 point

If there's one team you don't ever want to bet on in a prime-time game, it's the Buccaneers. Since 2014, the Bucs are just 1-5 in night games. And you know what, it's not just primetime games, the Bucs are also pretty bad in December. In their past 20 games played in the month of December, the Bucs have gone just 4-16 straight-up. Overall, Tampa is 3-9-1 ATS this season, which is tied for the second worst mark in the NFL. As for the Falcons, they seemed to have gotten used to the spotlight, because they've gone 5-1 in their past six primetime games. These two teams played in Week 12 and the Falcons covered as a 10.5-point favorite in a game they won 34-20. The Falcons are 6-3 ATS in divisional games since the beginning of last season, which is one of the best marks in the NFL in the span. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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