Steelers-Bucs Betting Preview & Pick: Does the FitzMagic end Monday Night?

Sep 24, 2018
Steelers-Bucs Betting Preview & Pick: Does the FitzMagic end Monday Night?

While a perfect day eluded us here at 4for4.com, it was another winning Sunday for my picks.

The Saints made us sweat, but eventually Drew Brees took advantage of a banged-up Falcons defense to lift New Orleans to an outright victory as a small dog. The Seahawks’ victory over the Cowboys as a 1-point home favorite was my other win on Sunday, while the 49ers couldn’t keep pace with the high-powered Chiefs, falling as a 6.5-point underdog.

Following a 5–0 Week 1, a 3–2 Week 2, and a 3–1 start to Week 3, I am now 11-3 on the new season. I’m also 2–0 on Monday nights thus far so let’s try to keep the primetime success going tonight when the upstart Buccaneers take on the drama-filled Steelers.

489 Pittsburgh Steelers at 490 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Point Spread: Bucs -1
  • O/U: 54
  • Time: 8:15 p.m. ET

Line Movement

The point spread has been all over the board for this matchup. The Bucs opened as a 2.5-point home underdog but the line was immediately bet down. Eventually, the line was a pick’em but as of Monday morning, Tampa Bay is now a 1-point home favorite. The total has also moved significantly, climbing from 50 up to 54.

Public Betting

As of this writing, 56 percent of betting tickets are on the Bucs to cover the spread, but 67 percent of the money is on the Steelers. This type of discrepancy between tickets and money wagered usually means a split between public bettors and the sharps. That said, we would have seen some reverse line movement, meaning the spread would be moving in the Steelers’ favor. That’s not the case here, as the money is on Pittsburgh, but the point spread has moved in favor of Tampa.

As for the total, 75 percent of the betting tickets and 77 percent of the money wagered is on the over.

Key Injuries

Not an injury, but the Steelers will once again be without running back Le’Veon Bell (holdout). Right tackle Marcus Gilbert (hamstring) will be a game-time decision and guard David DeCastro is out with a broken hand. Cornerback Artie Burns (questionable, toe), meanwhile, may not start tonight but is fully expected to play. Joe Haden (hamstring) practiced in full and will play as well.

For the Bucs, first-round pick Vita Vea (calf) has been ruled out but Brent Grimes (Groin) and Chris Godwin (toe) are expected to play. Ryan Fitzpatrick was also removed from the Week 3 injury report after he was dealing with a knee injury earlier in the week.

Trends

The Steelers are 4–1 against the spread in their last five games against the Bucs. The road team is also 4–1 against the number in the last five meetings between these two teams.

The under, meanwhile, is 9–3 in the Bucs’ last 12 home games and is 2327 in the Steelers’ last 30 games away from Heinz Field.

Prediction

This looks too easy. Fantasy owners are aware of Ben Roethlisberger’s home-road splits. Antonio Brown didn’t show up for work last Monday. LeVeon Bell remains a holdout. If Gilbert doesn’t play tonight, then two of the Steelers’ five starters along the offensive line will be out. Pittsburgh also hasn’t been the same team defensively since Ryan Shazier suffered that tragic injury last December.

Oh, and Ryan freaking Fitzpatrick leads all quarterbacks with a 13.4 yards-per-attempt average and this Bucs team has already knocked off two playoff contenders in the NFC.

But as we know, the NFL isn’t always what it seems. The Bills pulled off one of the biggest point-spread upsets in NFL history on Sunday in Minnesota. The Lions, who looked dreadful against the Jets in Week 1, beat the Patriots as a 6.5-point home dog on Sunday night. The Titans also upset the Jaguars on the road as a 10-point underdog, the Cardinals nearly beat the Bears and of all teams, the Browns won a game this week.

So, when it looks too good to be true, it often is when it comes to betting the NFL.

The Steelers are reeling, and the Bucs are soaring but let’s not overlook the fact that Tampa Bay’s defense is also allowing 6.6 yards per play, which is the third most in the NFL. The Bucs still don’t have a pass-rush either and while Big Ben has struggled on the road, that doesn’t mean he won’t take advantage of a vulnerable Tampa Bay defense.

Now, I am concerned about the Steelers defense. They’re slow without Shazier and Fitzpatrick is playing with house money. How many times have we seen this out of Fitzpatrick, though? How many times has he gone on a nice two-to-three game run and then throw four picks in a dreadful performance to remind everyone why he’s not a regular starter? Would anyone be shocked if he came crashing back down to earth tonight? At the very least, Fitzpatrick won’t be throwing for 400 yards and four touchdowns for a third consecutive week.

The Steelers’ 0-1-1 record is also a tad misleading. They out-gained the Browns 472–327 in Week 1 but they turned the ball over six times, which contributed to their 21–21 tie. Believe it or not, they also out-gained the high-flying Chiefs last Sunday 475–449 and won the turnover battle. That, more times than not, is often a recipe for winning games.

Here is how I see tonight playing out. The Bucs will be fired up. I could see them taking an early lead, which leads the TV announcers to drum up the narrative about how this could be the end of an era for the Steelers. Then T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree will start getting after Fitzpatrick. Turnovers will follow, the Steelers will take the lead in the second half and never look back.

Or the Bucs, whom everyone believed was one of the worst teams in the NFC coming into the season, will boat race a pre-season Super Bowl contender for their third consecutive victory. It could happen. Tampa Bay is playing like the better team right now and Pittsburgh could be on tilt.

I’m of the belief, however, that the Bucs are overvalued coming into tonight and the Steelers are underpriced. This Pittsburgh team is frustrated and angry. Best of all, they’re desperate. I’m riding with the Steel Curtain tonight.

Pick: Steelers +1

Season Records

  • Week 1: 5–0
  • Week 2: 3–2
  • Week 3: 3–1
  • Overall: 11–3

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

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