The Patriots opened as 2.5-point favorites as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in Week 8.
To be honest, I’m not following this line at all. I expected the Pats to be favored by about 6. Usually when a line seems a bit odd, I’ll take the time to figure out what the bookmakers are seeing that I might have overlooked. I honestly couldn’t find anything this time. The Steelers could fill their own wing at UPMC right now with all of their injured offensive and defensive linemen. Their play in the trenches has been a struggle. Only four teams have allowed more sacks than Pittsburgh this year, and their running game has taken a big step back this year. After giving up just 3 yards per carry last year, the Steelers D is giving up 4.5 this year. They’ve given up as many rushing TDs (5) in seven games this year as they allowed all season in 2010.
The Steelers might actually be better off if they had more injuries in the secondary, because the guys they’re trotting out there now have allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile a combined 115 QB rating (and yes, that is actually worse than New England’s pass D) despite not facing any of the league’s top 10 passing teams. The Pats are healthy and coming off a bye, and they’re something like 400-2 following a bye under Belichick. I usually wait until the end of the column to make my pick to build suspense, but I’ll ruin the surprise and pick the Patriots to cover this one handily. I’m expecting the public to back the Pats in this one, so it might be wise to jump in early. Don’t be surprised if the line is Pats -4 by kickoff.
I recognize that nobody will ever accuse me of being partial to the Steelers. I once had to jump in a frigid Western Pennsylvania lake in the middle of February wearing only a thin pair of cotton shorts because of the Steelers luckboxing their way to an improbable Super Bowl win. I hate the Steelers and everything that they stand for. And yes, I’m still a little bit chilly, pun intended. I pick the Steelers against the spread when the line warrants it. This is NOT one of those times.
The over/under is currently 50.5, and the over seems like a smart bet. 50.5 equates to 11 or fewer scoring drives (6 TDs and 3 FGs, 5 TDs and 6 FGs, etc.). I don’t expect to see much defense in this one unless Belichick has worked miracles during the bye week. The Pats are usually good for 30+ points and shouldn’t encounter much resistance through the air, so they could put a pretty big dent in that number alone.
I’ll take the Pats and the over.
Other Lines I Like This Week
Vikings (+3) @ Panthers
I must admit, I didn’t give Christian Ponder enough credit prior to the Green Bay game. Apparently an offense functions better when every pass isn’t thrown directly into the turf two feet in front of the intended receiver. Who knew? I like the Panthers a whole lot better when I get points. Carolina has one of the league’s worst defenses, and Adrian Peterson is long overdue for one of his “holy-cow-did-you-see-Adrian-
Bills (-5.5) vs. Redskins
I find it really hard to like the Redskins when they’re playing on the road … without the services of two of their top offensive playmakers (Moss and Hightower) … against a winning team … that is also coming off a bye. This matchup reminds me of that cheesy 90s George Clooney action movie where the hapless fishermen unwittingly drive their tugboat into some sort of mega hurricane. Except in this instance, Washington might blow a little bit more.
Eagles (-3) vs. Cowboys
You need to know two things about Andy Reid. One, he looks like a platypus with a mustache. Two, he never loses after a bye week. A 12-0 record after the bye and a healthy Mike Vick is good enough for me.
2010 Record ATS 25-17-1
2011 Record ATS 16-20-2