NFL 2018 Season - Week 14
 

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Schooled
by Dennis Ranahan

Two schools of thought are on display tonight when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Pittsburgh Steelers to complete Week Three NFL action. If you haven’t been paying attention, you might be surprised that the home standing Bucs are favored tonight over the winless Steelers.

Maybe, that is because an undefeated home team is a good bet over a winless road squad. Or, maybe it is because the public wagering community has the memory of a nat. What happened last week plays a much too big of a role on what the public thinks is going to happen this week … and it happens in reverse.

The public thinks that a team that won last week is a good bet to win again, when in actuality, the losers from last week are consistently getting the better price on this week’s point spreads and likely to collect on a wager. How can we use this knowledge tonight, keeping in mind that knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is not including it in a fruit salad.

Okay, what are the two dueling thoughts that are logical on this game?

First, betting on a road favorite that has not won a game against a team that is perfect on the season is not inherently a good play. When the line opened on this game, the wise guys who saw value with the Steelers and points in Tampa took it. That moved the line down, and something interesting is happening on tonight’s game too, the public agrees with the wise guys. That is what shifted this spread four points, from Pittsburgh being favored by two points to now a two point underdog.

Problem with following the wise guys in this one is that their bet is already gone. The smart money jumped on the Bucs plus points, but how does it see the Steelers with points?

The wise guys are out of this game at the current line, which leaves only the public betting on last week’s results.

Are the Steelers really going to be winless after three weeks and the Bucs 3-0?

I don’t like the chances of that based on the natural order of things, but these may not be normal times in Steelersville. Last year, after they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in their only postseason game, the problems that had been eating away at the fiber of this long time great organization became public. Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley hadn’t communicated directly with Head Coach Mike Tomlin for weeks.

The two men had become oil and water after a six-year relationship that had the Steelers offense one of the best in football. As soon as the dust cleared on the 2017 season, Haley was out and he is now offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. So, does taking Haley away from a coach he had come to hate clear up all the problems for Tomlin in Pittsburgh?

Hardly.

When there is dissension with assistant coaches, the problem is never with the flashpoint on the staff, but rather the head coach. Removing Haley from the Steelers staff was like amputating your arm when the cancer is located in your leg.

Tomlin has run his course to its natural conclusion for success in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have only had three coaches since 1969. Chuck Noll took them from years of futility to Super Bowl Champions, but his final ten seasons were marked by mediocrity. They were reborn under Bill Cowher, and like Noll, Cowher led the Steelers to a Super Bowl title to complete the 2005 season before he retired after the following year. Tomlin has been on the job since 2007, and he too added a Vince Lombardi Trophy to the Steelers collection.

But, his time has run out for excellence. His next winning season will be with the next team that hires him. Betting the Steelers to regain dominance with Tomlin at the helm is like booking a return voyage out of New York on the Titanic.

It’s not going to happen.

So, there you have it. Take the school of thought that the Steelers have to win tonight just by the law of averages, or follow the early smart money that no longer has an edge based on the point spread shift.

Whomever wins will have a perfectly plausible story to support the outcome, while I’m just looking to get schooled on this game without any monetary investment.