The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will try to remain undefeated when they entertain the Pittsburgh Steelers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay on Monday night. Tampa is coming off consecutive victories over New Orleans and Philadelphia. The Steelers are still winless with a tie against Cleveland followed by a loss to Kansas City.
Where’s the defense?
The Steelers are struggling on defense at the moment, having given up 21 points to the lowly Browns (14 in the fourth quarter) and 42 to the Chiefs and their red-hot quarterback Patrick Mahomes. In the latter contest, Mahomes torched Pittsburgh to the tune of 326 passing yards and a whopping six touchdowns while throwing only five incompletions in 28 attempts. The Steelers are obviously without linebacker Ryan Shazier this season and veteran cornerback Joe Haden’s absence has depleted the secondary. They have not generate much of a pass rush, as Mahomes was sacked only once and that was when he simply ran right into nose tackle Daniel McCullers. Pittsburgh has forced a modest total of two turnovers through two weeks.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re on top of each other,” cornerback Mike Hilton explained. “We’ve got to make sure we know what we’re doing so explosive plays like we gave up [this past Sunday] don’t happen all the time. It’s a copycat league, so some team might be doing the same thing (against us) Kansas City did.”
Tampa Bay quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is arguably the MVP of the NFL through two weeks. So why does Tampa Bay have an impending quarterback quandary on its hands? Well, former Jameis Winston is eligible to return later this month after serving a three-game suspension.
“We’ll worry about that when the time comes,” head coach Dirk Koetter noted.
The time has not yet come. For one more game, there is no controversy–and it is this one next Monday night against Pittsburgh. That may be bad news for the Steelers, because Fitzpatrick is positively on fire at the moment. The 35-year-old has completed an incredible 78.7 percent of his passes for 819 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception. In a Week 1 48-40 shootout win over New Orleans, Fitzpatrick threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns without turning the ball over. He was an awesome 27-of-33 for 402 yards with four more TDs and one INT in the recent 27-21 defeat of Philadelphia.
“He’s playing his tail off,” said DeSean Jackson, who had five receptions for 146 yards and two scores against the Saints. “I’m very excited. He said he’s (almost) 36, but he’s playing like he’s 28…. And I’m playing like I’m 24.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are:
- 4-0 ATS in their last four overall
- 4-0 ATS in their last four games after passing for more than 250 yards in their previous game
- 5-2 ATS in their last seven games after allowing less than 90 rushing yards in their previous game
The Pittsburgh Steelers are:
- 1-7 ATS in their last eight overall
- 0-6 ATS in their last six games on grass
- 7-2 Over in their last nine overall
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Nothing bodes particularly well for Pittsburgh heading into this one. Its secondary has been generous so far in 2018 and it is now facing one of the two hottest quarterbacks in the NFL for a second consecutive week (first Mahomes and now Fitzpatrick). The Steelers are also dealing with plenty of drama, as running back Le’Veon Bell is holding out and star receiver Antonio Brown recently posted a bizarre “trade me” tweet. For Tampa Bay, meanwhile, Jackson has 275 receiving yards and two TDs through two games.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Full-Game Total Pick
After being picked off three times by the Browns, Ben Roethlisberger settled down and threw for 452 yards and three touchdowns without a single INT against Kansas City. Big Ben will have to work similar magic if his team wants to keep up with Fitzpatrick and company. The over is 7-2 in the Steelers’ last nine overall and 7-1 in their last eight on grass. It is also 4-1 in the Buccaneers’ last five against losing opponents and 4-1 in their last five after allowing more than 30 points in their previous outing. Look for this one to go over the total.
Full-Game Prop Bet
Tampa Bay went for more than 26 points in each of its first two contests, including one defense (Philadelphia) considerably better than that of Pittsburgh. If Fitzpatrick’s hot streak ends sooner rather than later (and it might not), it will likely happen at Chicago in Week 4 as opposed to against the reeling and winless Steelers.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers over 26.5 points
Half-Time Side Pick
Bell continues to hold out and Brown caused a stir earlier in the week for being a no-show, although he appears to be good to go now. “It has to die,” guard Ramon Foster said of the off-field distractions. “Way too much stuff going on not to learn from this. Nobody is invincible. Nobody is shunned from any bad things happening, whether that’s on the field or off the field.” As for Tampa Bay, it has already defeated a pair of 2017 playoff teams behind a red-hot Fitzpatrick. He is the first player to begin a season with consecutive 400-yard, four-touchdown performances.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers -0.5
Half-Time Total Bet
“His numbers are off the charts,” Koetter said of Fitzpatrick. “So how would you expect everybody to respond? Of course, our team is playing well. They’re doing something not many thought they could.” One unit that is not playing well is the Pittsburgh secondary, so Fitzpatrick will probably enjoy another field day.
Prediction: Over 27