Game Preview

Monday Night Football Preview: Steelers at Buccaneers


Monday Night Football Preview

Steelers -2 | Over/Under 55.5

The week 3 installment of Monday Night Football sees a matchup of early-season surprise packets at Raymond James Stadium. Pittsburgh holds a dominant edge in this “rivalry”, winning 8 of the 10 encounters all-time but things are looking a little different heading into this game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers remain undefeated, upsetting both the New Orleans Saints and world champion Philadelphia Eagles on their way to a 2-0 record. The high-octane Pittsburgh Steelers, on the other hand, lost at home to Pat Mahomes and drew their season opener against a suddenly resurgent Cleveland Browns.

Steelers at Buccaneers

Steelers -1 | Over / Under 54.5

Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1-1)

The Steelers are staring down the barrel of their worst start to a season in 5 years. In that 2013 season, Pittsburgh lost 4 straight games heading into the week 5 bye and never recovered, finishing the regular season with an 8-8 record and missing the playoffs.

Not helping them as they look to avoid a reoccurrence is the fact that they are a mess at the moment. Le’Veon Bell is still holding out for a bigger payday and it doesn’t appear that standoff is going to end any time soon. Antonio Brown gets some criticism on Twitter by an ex-Steelers staffer, responds with “Trade me let’s find out”, skips out on a team meeting and causes a near media meltdown. And the team is coming off a very unwanted NFL first.

Why They Will Win

The Steelers have some of the most talented offensive weaponry in the NFL. Antonio Brown is quickly putting himself in GOAT conversations and is the arguably the best player on the field whenever he steps out there. Mike Tomlin has said that he’s already dealt with the missed meeting issue and the WR will factor into the week 3 plans. Ben’s #2 target, Juju Smith-Schuster, has blossomed into one of the best young receivers in the league. He finished with 121 yards and a touchdown last week on a whopping 19 targets. And if he’s not a top-tier receiver, then he’s definitely a top-tier touchdown celebrator.

James Conner is making the team miss Bell a whole lot less than he was probably hoping when he started the holdout. Conner has 257 total yards and 3 touchdowns through his first 2 career games. And the Outlaw, Jesse James, is right behind him with 198 yards and a touchdown, most of which came last week in the shootout with the Chiefs. Pittsburgh might struggle defensively, but they have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league.

And Why They Won’t

Big Ben’s splits. It has been well publicised that Roethlisberger plays a lot better in Pittsburgh than he does on the road. If you haven’t heard, just take a look at the table over there that I’ve adapted from our week 2 start/sit article.

The contradiction is staggering and has already been on display through the opening 2 games of 2018. In the season opener in Cleveland, Ben threw a respectable 335 yards but only 1 touchdown to 3 interceptions as the Browns finally ended their 628-day losing streak. It wasn’t a win, but hey, it wasn’t a loss either. In week 2 at home, he went berserk with 452 yards on 60 attempts, 3 touchdowns, and no picks. It doesn’t matter how good the weapons are around him, if he can’t straighten this issue out, it will be another long night for Steeler fans.

Home G QBRat Pct PassY/G TD Int RushTD Fumb FumL
2018 1 104.3 65 452 3 0 1 1 0
2017 7 94.8 66.3 316.6 16 8 0 1 0
2016 6 116.7 70.8 319.2 20 5 0 1 1
2015 6 102.4 65.4 348 16 7 0 0 0
Away G QBRat Pct PassY/G TD Int RushTD Fumb FumL
2018 1 60.5 56.1 335 1 3 0 2 2
2017 8 91.7 61.7 254.4 12 6 0 2 1
2016 8 78.4 59.4 238 9 8 1 7 1
2015 6 86 70.8 308.3 5 9 0 2 0

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)

The Bucs had a rocky start to the year when franchise quarterback Jameis Winston was suspended the first 3 games and no one was giving them much of a chance. They promoted Ryan Fitzpatrick to help cover who has said that he just wanted to go 3-0 while he was there. He’s 2/3 of the way there with just the Steelers standing in the way of his goal.

Why They Will Win

Ryan FitzpatrickFitzmagi…err, we can’t say that here anymore thanks to Minkah. So, Fitzpatrick may have just wanted to hold down the fort while Winston was suspended, but he’s doing far more than that. In leading the Bucs to the 2 upset wins, he has become just the third quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400+ yards with 4 or more touchdowns in the first 2 games of the season.

The performances have led to his teammates calling for him to remain the starter even once Winston returns, with DeSean Jackson saying “can’t take the hot man out.” If nothing else, they have given the man an unworldly confidence.

And Why They Won’t

The Bucs have put up 75 points in the 2 game winning streak but they’ve also allowed 61. They’re definitely winning through offense which is a dangerous game to play when coming up against the firepower of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have put up 58 points of their own so far this year and averaged over 25 points a game through the 2017 regular season. They even dropped 42 on the NFL’s best defense of last year, the Jacksonville Jaguars, when they lost in the Divisional Playoff game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers can put up numbers in a big way. Just look at last week’s loss to Kansas City as an example. 37 points and a whole heap of yards. The Bucs aren’t going to keep winning games if they can’t get stops.

Key Match-Up:

The defenses. After 2 games, both of these defenses sit inside the bottom 10 in yards allowed (29th for Tampa Bay, 23rd Pittsburgh) and points allowed (27th Tampa, 28th Pittsburgh). In a game where there are offensive weapons everywhere, this game will likely be decided by whichever defense makes a big play.

Prediction

This will be high scoring with very little defensive input. Fitzpatrick and Roethlisberger will go at each other all night but ultimately, the Steelers break it open late and get their first win of the year. Final: Pittsburgh 38, Tampa Bay 30

Betting Tips

Despite everything that is happening with both franchises, Pittsburgh still opens as 1 point favorites. Last season the Steelers won 13 games but only covered the line in 7 of the 17 total games they played (playoff game included). Tampa Bay had a slightly worse 6-9-1 record ATS throughout 2017. As you might expect from the results this season, Tampa is 2-0 ATS, while Pittsburgh is 0-2.

Total Points Over/Under

The O/U in this one sits at a high 54.5 points suggesting the bookies know what we do. This isn’t going to be a defensive struggle. Pittsburgh had the same record as above in their over/under last year; 7-10 but Tampa went at a slightly better 8-8. I think this is a reflection of the high game totals leveled against these 2 teams due to their defensive inefficiencies. The same thing that has happened here. However, in the 4 combined games these teams have played so far this season, they’ve gone over on every occasion.

BEST BET:

Steelers -1 (-105), Total Points Over 54.5 (-110)

Prop Bet

My favorite prop bet of the week is on the length of the longest touchdown.

  • Longest Touchdown: Over 50.5 yards (+115) – This feels a little bit like free money to me. Through the 4 games, the lowest yards on the longest touchdown thrown by these 2 QB’s has been 46 yards. Ben threw that in week 2 plus a 67 yarder in week 1. Fitzy has thrown for 58 and 75 (twice) yard scores in his 2 games. With field stretchers like Brown, Juju, Evans, and DJax, I’m excited about the over.
  • Player to Score 2 or more Touchdowns: Antonio Brown (+270) – It’s been a week full of controversy and adversity with Brown at the center of it. He’s not the kind of guy that’s going to shy away after that. I think it fires him up to prove a point, especially after being told he wouldn’t be successful anywhere else. Look for him to be targetted a lot and I can’t see any of these Tampa CB’s being able to cover him.
  • Player to Score Bucs First Touchdown: DeSean Jackson (+600) – The Steelers defensive backs have been especially bad this season, while DJax has been torching d-backs. Last week he had 129 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles and it was his lowest totals in both those categories. Thing is, he’s done it on just 4.5 catches per week. Look for Fitzpatrick to take a deep shot early to DJax.
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