Against the Spread: Week 8
By Chris, the Impaler - Patriots Insider
I was kicking butt in an online single-table Omaha tournament the other night when a guy, Heinz77, calls me out (or I should say types me out since that is what you do when you play poker online). He said he was still angry with the New England Patriots for beating his Steelers in the playoffs in 2002. The Patriots destroyed the Steelers in that playoff game behind a stingy defense and a QB who was to be traded the following year. We know who won the Championship Game that year.
Ruminating, I thought, Heinz77 must have been thinking about the 28-3 drubbing the Patriots laid the Steelers, on Jan. 5, 1997 to advance to the AFC Championship game. In fact since 1992 the Patriots Steelers have played each other eight times. In that stretch New England is a whopping 6-2 against the spread overall and 4-1 against the spread in games played between the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio Rivers. However, in those five home games the Steelers are 3-2 straight up so I asked him, over my pocket Ah-10h suited, why he was so bitter?
Because Heinz77 wrote after the Qc-Kd-6h flop, You guys always win the big games against us!
I raised more than double the $1000 pot hoping to get him out on my straight draw. No luck, he re-raised me and put his entire chip stack in the middle of the table. Shape up or ship out time to borrow a phrase from Larry Walkers brother. I put him on a pair of Kings at best and with two cards to go I was already pot committed so I called and dumped the rest of my stack in with his.
We flipped our cards and he had K-J clubs. A harmless 5 of diamonds came on the turn, but on the river was an A of diamonds and I knocked him out of the tourney with Aces.
See, why I hate New England!he wrote before he left the table.
With very little to distract us this week other than a certain local team playing in the Fall Classic, we turn our attention to football and to what should be a fabulous Week 8 card for serious and amateur players alike.
PITTSBURGH (+3.5) v New England (43 o/u)
Well Heinz77 was not the worlds greatest poker player and he deserved to lose. However, he got the old gray cells thinking about the state of the Patriots rivalries. In fact, last weekend's tilt against the hated Jets I thought that was our rivalry. Or was it Miami? I couldnt remember. But after my conversation with a loyal, post Chuck Knoll -Terry Bradshaw era, Steelers fanatic I am inclined to consider the Steelers our fiercest rival and not the Jets. While this is not a novel thought, for me it was. So often the focus in New England sports is on New York to the extent of ignoring other rivalries. While we in New England, much like myself, do not consider the Steelers our mortal enemy a case can be made from a three rivers perspective that they consider the Patriots their archrival!
Indeed, if this is the case then the game on Sunday might mean more to the Steelers than to the Patriots if that is possible? Of course in years prior the Patriots have matched wits and beaten HC Bill Cowher who has enjoyed one of the longest tenures in modern NFL history. While some of the names, like Jerome the bus Bettis are still familiar, guys like Slash and Kirkland are long gone and XFLer Tommy Maddox has been injured since week two and stud MAC player and Miami of Ohio record breaker rookie QB Big Ben Roethlisberger has done a competent job in his replacement. And with Hines Ward double covered all day, Big Ben has found the willing hands of Plaxico Burress. But this weekend will be the big test. In case it doesn't work out with Ben, Maddox has been throwing finally in practice and might be available as a last resort.
Generally a Belichick coached defense will intimidate and confuse a rookie QB. Roethlisberger though is more than a rookie (although I know that is not actually possible in your first year but if the guys on the Sunday shows can get away with stretching reality so can I) and he has improved exponentially in the past three weeks. He must have retained some confidence for their fluke come from behind win at Dallas, a game that they trailed by as many as 10 points in the final quarter.
However, Coach Cowher and the Steelers are at a serious disadvantage due to the injury of their star NT Casey Hampton, who some say is the best 3-4 NT in football today, incurred in that same Dallas game. Chris Hoke will try to replace him this week against what is starting to become a fierce some Patriots ground attack with Corey Dillon grinding out consecutive 100 yard plus games.
If the Steelers are able to compensate for the loss of Hampton and stack eight men in the box and play man to man against the Patriots wounded trio of receivers they might have a chance to do what other NFL teams playing against the Patriots have not, stop Corey Dillon.
Coming off a bye week always helps a team, no matter what their record, a week of rest against a team coming off a big home win, is dangerous. This could be a very dangerous spot for the Patriots. The bye week came at a good time for the Steelers who had linebacker Kendrell Bell at practice for the first time this year. Duce Staley also returned to practice and might be able to give the Steelers a lift against the Patriots DL.
The Patriots will face a raucous crowd at 57 Varieties Field but the Pats are no stranger to away game animus. Theyll do a competent job and go about their business in their usual professional manner; however, I think Pittsburgh has all the weapons on both sides of the ball to compete with the Patriots. For all we know this is the SteelersBig Dance Party and they have a bill that needs to get paid.
Impaler Perspective: I am grabbing some home cookin in the NFLs version of the MAC as our favorite rookie QB leads the home team toward a win. This isn't Slash's nor Maddox's Steelers any more. Big Ben is legit for 110 units.
Cincinnati (+4) at TENNESSEE (42 o/u)
Impaler Perspective: System players know that you go against the MNF winner on the road. Impaler says the system sucks. While overall since 1992 Tennessee holds a 12-9 advantage ATS, in games held in Music City Miracle Stadium Cincinnati is 6-4 ATS with 6-10 games going over the total. Also keep in mind that Tennessee will be at a huge disadvantage if it turns out that Steve airMcNair does not play. At deadline his status was uncertain. While we still like the Bengals if he does play, Cincinnati will win outright if he does not. Were playing with the Tigers once again for $220 and the 4 points is a swell bonus, number should be 3 because this one is coming down to a field goal.
HOUSTON (-2) v. Jacksonville (42 o/u)
Impaler Perspective: If you are seeing a trend here you are correct. We love teams (other than the Giants) coming off a bye-especially if the team that was on a bye is at home. Houston was getting better and better before the bye week. Even with the possibility of the Texans playing without standout RB Davis they should cover against a deflated Jacksonville team that won big last weekend in Indianapolis. Can anyone say, Let down? If you plan on wagering on this game you should be aware that Houston is 2-0 ATS at home against Jacksonville in the past three years with both games cashing in over the total. Were driving the Carr and laying the two points for 220 units.
San Francisco (+3) v CHICAGO (37 o/u)
Impaler Perspective: The bye week helps the Niners who have arguably one of the best young TEs in the game in Eric Johnson and an up and coming QB in Rattay. But they are not there yet. They are not even the same team that creamed Chicago last year 49-7. Gone are the Sharpie and the Deadhead. Both teams bring their 1-5 records ATS into the game on Sunday so we know one team will cover. Be advised that in the last three years Chicago is 1-0 at home against the Chargers, but San Francisco has dominated the Bears by going 3-1 ATS since 1992 with 3-4 games going over the posted total. Chicago looked like they were gaining momentum earlier this year with the emergence of RB Tomas Jones and QB Rex Grossman. But an injured knee and a major drop off at the QB position with Quinn has hurt Lovie Smith's promising start as HC of DaBears. Im playing Better than Advertised for $330 grabbing the three points on the road at the New Soldier Field.
Monday Night Bonus
NY JETS (-7) v Miami (37 o/u)
I'll start out saying that since we began Monday Night Bonus, this space is 2-0. However, at this point in the season we see that these two teams played once this year in Miami with the Jets winning outright 17-9 as a six-point favorite. Donnie Abraham's INT for a TD was the difference. We also went against Miami last week and they won at home outright. While the AFC East is no longer the toughest division in football, tell that to the players and see what they say. After an emotional home win, the Dolphins who are a few turnovers and 1 quality QB away from a winning season travel to New Jersey to play the New York Jets. Two things strike me as I look at this game; the NFL schedulers probably thought this would be a bigger game than it actually is and Miami is not as god-awful as initially thought. While I say this game will not be reminiscent of the Marino Todd match-ups of the 80s, this should be a defensively sound, game with ball control the mantra of the day. Gamblers should note that at JETS Miami is 1-0 ATS in the past three years.
Impaler Perspective: Jets might win outright but Miami grabbing the TD spread keeps it within three points for $330.
Week 7 RECRAP
After another weird week living la vida loca so let's look at our losses first. There were several seven point spreads on Sunday and one by game time on Monday night. St. Louis was giving seven at Miami (sensing disaster we laid off this game), Philadelphia was up to seven and a half points by kick off in Cleveland and the Giants were a seven point favorite at home against the road warrior Detroit Lions. Not only did these favorites not cover, but also three of four lost outright and Philadelphia blew and early eleven point lead and won in OT on a field goal. This cost us four units on the Giants and two units on the Eagles. We hit on the Jets (who missed their opportunity to win outright, but they covered by the hook (a half point) in their 13-7 loss and we won 1 unit.
We also hit for two units as San Diego won outright on the road against a decimated Carolina Panther team. By Monday night the Denver Broncos were bet up to seven points and lost outright to the Bengals startling play on their first Monday Night game in years. We also won on this game and I am scratching me head how I missed the two out of five weekend traps! Fortunately for our purposes, we won 2 units on the Bengals to improve our weekend mark to 3-2 against the spread for a total of 160 for the weekend. After seven difficult weeks playing the Pros with a 7-8-1 record we realize an old Raoul Duke saying is now truer than ever; when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. This week we turn pro!
You can find The Impaler's weekly column here each week as he contemplates the odds and provides perspective for the top 5 picks for the week. Have a bone to pick, want some more insights, just want to talk football odds? You can reach Chris in the forums, under the screenname: christheimpaler.
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