Early NFL Odds & Public Picks go to Panthers Over Steelers

Jason Lake

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 3:23 PM GMT

The good times are over for the Pittsburgh Steelers and it seems that the NFL betting universe is lining up to support the Carolina Panthers in their Sunday Night Football matchup.

Jason’s Record After Week 1: 1-4 ATS, 0-1 Totals

Profit: Minus-6.6 units

It happened to Chuck Noll. It happened to Bill Cowher. So we shouldn’t be surprised to see the Pittsburgh Steelers falling back to Earth under Mike Tomlin. No head coach or NFL team is immune to life’s ups and downs, and this is certainly a down time as far as Steelers fans are concerned. After five straight winning seasons and a Super Bowl ring in Tomlin’s first five years under the headset, the Steelers played .500 football in 2012, and again in 2013. They’ve become the Dallas Cowboys of the AFC.

Actually, it’s worse than that: At least Dallas covered in Week 2. The Steelers have yet to beat the NFL lines this year at 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS; last Thursday, they lost 26-6 to the Baltimore Ravens (–2.5 at home) in a rivalry game that is usually decided by a field goal or less. Now the Steelers have another tough road game against the pesky Carolina Panthers, who are off to a perfect 2-0 SU and ATS start. Our NFL odds board shows the Panthers opening at –3 (–120) and pulling in two-thirds of bettors on the early consensus reports.

 

Plateau
Is 8-8 the new normal for the Steelers? Football Outsiders projected them to win 8.8 games this year and reach the playoffs about 53 percent of the time. That’s very close to Pittsburgh’s preseason over/under of 8.5 wins on the NFL props market. There’s not a lot of wiggle room for the Steelers; they have one of the weakest schedules in the league, and they’ve already crossed the Cleveland Browns off the list, hanging on for a 30-27 win in their season opener. The Browns cashed in as 5.5-point road dogs.

Alas, into everyone’s life, a little mediocrity must fall. Chuck Noll’s Steelers owned the 1970s with eight straight playoff teams and four Super Bowl champions, then failed to win a playoff game in Terry Bradshaw’s last three full seasons at QB. Bill Cowher’s reign started with six consecutive trips to the postseason and a Super Bowl appearance; between 1998 and 2000 inclusive, Pittsburgh finished out of the playoffs at 22-26 SU and 21-25-2 ATS.

The good news is that Noll and Cowher both saw their teams start to figure things out in Year Three of their respective downturns. Which is where Tomlin finds himself today. He’s also got a veteran QB in Ben Roethlisberger who isn’t quite on his last legs yet at age 32 – that’s two years younger than Bradshaw was in 1982, his last hurrah before handing the torch to the immortal Cliff Stoudt.

 

Inherent in the System
While Tomlin and the Steelers are working through this rough patch, the Panthers are off to a surprisingly good start in defense of their NFC South title. But let’s not bust out the Ric Flair impersonations just yet. Carolina’s wins were over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions, both of whom played poorly against the ‘Cats. Pro Football Reference gave Carolina minus-1.8 SRS (Simple Rating System) after two weeks. Considerably better than Pittsburgh’s minus-9.1 SRS, but substandard nonetheless.

The Panthers also have a “personnel issue” when it comes to DE Greg Hardy. He was deactivated for last week’s game, in response to the league-wide backlash against domestic violence – Hardy was convicted in July of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend. Hardy will be allowed to practice with the team this week, but his status for the Pittsburgh game remains uncertain as we go to press. Let’s see what fresh information comes in before we make our NFL picks.

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