Most football pundits would have expected the records to be reversed after two games. Heading into the Week 3 Monday Night Football matchup, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the surprise of the NFL with wins over New Orleans and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. The Pittsburgh Steelers on the other hand are probably lucky to have a tie on their ledger. And to make matters worse, Antonio Brown is up to his old tricks, skipping out on practice and team meetings, bringing more distractions to a team that doesn’t need them right now.
Kickoff for this regular season Week 3 game is set for Monday, September 24, 2018, at 8:15 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium.
NFL Opening Odds at BookMaker.eu
Pittsburgh Steelers -1.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers +1.5
The line has bounced around since opening at Pittsburgh -2. It got as high as -2.5 and was wagered down to a pick em. But the Steelers have recovered at the betting window with the spread back up to -1.5. This is one of the more intriguing games on the Week 3 slate and you can expect more movement prior to kickoff. There’s been a spike in the total as well with early money backing the over.
Antonio Brown – The rock that was the Steelers offense is crumbling. With Le’Veon Bell still on hiatus during his contract dispute, leading receiver Brown is pulling more of his stunts. AB elected to not show up for work with the rest of his teammates earlier this week after he was visibly upset in the team’s loss on Sunday. Brown could be disciplined by Mike Tomlin or the coach could let the tirade go. Either way, the locker room is divided and it will affect the team.
Chris Conte – A stabilizing veteran in the Bucs secondary, Conte was forced out of last week’s game with a knee injury and his status is uncertain. The potential loss is a blow to the Bucs, who are already without starting corners Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves. Conte was replaced by rookie Jordan Whitehead. With rookie corners Carlton Davis and Ryan Smith, the Bucs allowed Nick Foles to throw for 334 yards last week. Ben Roethlisberger could have a big day against this young secondary.
Matchup to Watch
With or without AB, expect Big Ben to heave the ball all over the yard. Roethlisberger ignored the achy elbow and threw 60 passes last week, completing 39 of them for 452 yards and three touchdowns. After tossing three interceptions in the opener, he was pickless on Sunday and sacked just once. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught 13 balls for 121 yards and Jesse James had 138 yards on five catches. Roethlisberger’s 787 passing yards are second only to Tampa’s Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Both teams struggled defending the pass last week and the Bucs also had problems in Week 1. Tampa has the league’s second-worst pass defense through two weeks, allowing 386.5 yards per game with opposing quarterbacks completing 77.4 percent of their passes. The Bucs will also trot out an inexperienced secondary to combat Big Ben and his troops.
Player to Watch
If the MVP award was handed out after two games, Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the easy winner. Fitz isn’t going to give up the starting job easily and if he has another gem, Jameis Winston might be on his way out. Fitzpatrick stunned everyone, including himself, with his performance in the opener, throwing for 417 yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Saints.
He couldn’t do it again, most thought. But he did. Fitz connected with DeSean Jackson for a 75-yard touchdown on the first offensive play and finished off the Eagles with 402-yard, four-touchdown performance. He leads the NFL with 819 yards and a rating of 151.5. He can’t do it again, can he?
Free ATS Pick
We said this last week, but Fitzpatrick can’t go off again. He lit up two pretty good defensive teams in the first two games and faces a Steelers group that got burned for six touchdowns from Patrick Mahomes. So maybe Fitz can deliver in the final game before Winston’s suspension ends.
We should see plenty of pass attempts in this one with Big Ben going after an inexperienced secondary. However, it’s hard to imagine Fitz duplicating his performance. The train has to stop sometime and the Steelers are in desperate need of getting a win. Despite all the turmoil I like Pittsburgh to cover the spread, but the total is up there and I’m leaning toward the under.
NFL Betting Odds: Steelers 30, Buccaneers 21
BookMaker offers play-by-play betting odds for live sporting events every day! The user-friendly wagering interface on your smartphone provides an easy way to place bets on the go. Mobile betting lines are updated by the minute, so click here to start gambling on thrilling live action at BookMaker Sportsbook!