You might think a football prognosticator who misfires on 90 percent of his top plays receives a lot of correspondence. And you’d be right. You also might think the majority of that correspondence consists of death threats, collection notices, sympathy cards from family members and countless “LOL” texts.
Nope. You wanna know what’s been filling up my inbox and mailbox for the last 2½ months? Requests. From football fans begging me to pick against their team. From football players begging me to predict the NFL will ban them for life (thanks for the email, Richie Incognito). From world leaders begging me to predict their massively controversial health care reform law will be an epic fail (I’ll see what I can do, Mr. President).
Indeed, after dropping to 1-9 with Best Bets when Utah State (-13½) failed to cover in its 28-24 victory at UNLV last week, I’ve cemented my reputation as a real-life “cooler.” As such, I’d like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to this week’s “winner” (drumroll) … the Pittsburgh Steelers!
Why would I fade the Steelers when they’re in the extremely rare spot of being a home underdog—against the Lions, no less? Well, let’s start with the obvious: Detroit is 6-3 and alone atop the NFC North; Pittsburgh is 3-6 and alone in the basement in the AFC North. Digging deeper, you’ll find that the Steelers are averaging 19.9 points per game (tied for 24th in the NFL), scoring more than 19 points just four times (while losing three of those contests). Conversely, the Lions are putting up 26.4 ppg (7th in the NFL). Yes, Pittsburgh has surrendered fewer total yards, but Detroit’s defense has been vastly superior against the run, and the Lions have actually given up fewer points (216) than the Steelers (218).
As for common opponents, both have faced the Bengals, Vikings and Bears, with Pittsburgh going 0-3 and the Lions going 3-1 (defeating Chicago twice). Turnover margin: Detroit is plus-1; the Steelers are minus-11.
Finally, the Lions’ Matthew Stafford has the seventh-best quarterback rating in the NFL. That’s key, because the Steelers’ three victories have come against Joe Flacco and two rookies (EJ Manuel and Geno Smith), who rank 25th, 26th and 29th, respectively, in QB rating.
Now, before you grab your Terrible Towel, race to the sportsbook and bet the house on Pittsburgh, there’s one last thing you should know: My only Best Bet winner this season was a play against … the Steelers. Uh-oh!
Lucky Seven: Lions -2 at Steelers (Best Bet); Bears -3 vs. Ravens; Eagles -3½ vs. Redskins; Browns +6 at Bengals; Houston +16 at Louisville; Georgia +3½ at Auburn; Michigan State -6½ at Nebraska.
Last Week: 2-5 (0-1 Best Bet). Season: 32-41 (17-20 college; 15-21 NFL; 1-9 Best Bets).
Matt Jacob appears Wednesdays on Pregame.com’s First Preview, which airs 10-11 a.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio 1100-AM.