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Who Will Get Mad in March?

March Madness is usually all about College Basketball.  The Bracket Challenge.  The hype, the dramatics, etc, etc. . .  March is also the time when NFL fan-bases get over-hyped or overly depressed because NFL free agency has begun.

It’s usually fan-bases of bad teams that freak out.  If you’re a fan of the Jets, Bears, Browns, Giants or any other team that has a top-ten draft pick – it’s a nervous time.

But is it, really?

Source: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America

Every team enters the off-season with holes.  Whether it be because of lack of talent on the roster or someone is being paid too much.  Regardless of what it may be, free agency – in some people’s eyes – is the “quick-fix” to all their problems.  In truth free agency can be just what a team needs to get over a hump or take them to the promised land – for example, Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos in 2012 (jeez, that was already SIX years ago. . .).  Or even in 2014 when the Patriots signed corner back DOn the other hand, free-agency can be the equivalent of a broken water pipe being fixed with some duct-tape.  For examples of bad free agent signings just look up any of these Redskins signings: Albert Haynesworth in 2009, Adam Archuletta in 2006 or even Jeremiah Trotter in 2004.  .  .Oh those Redskins. . .

This season, there were names that every bad franchise’s fan base wanted them to throw money at.  So far some players have agreed to terms with teams wanting their services.  This includes “house hold names” like Albert Wilson, who has agreed to go to Miami for three-year $24 million dollar contract and Trey Burton who has agreed to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract.  Now, one isn’t saying that these men aren’t “good” and I could care less about the money they’re getting – BUT – fan bases all start to follow these type of guys on twitter and “all of a sudden” become experts on the “hidden talents” that players like these possess.

Source: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Come on, man. . .

Burton was the third best tight end in Philadelphia and Albert Wilson was probably a three or four guy in Kansas City.   If these are the caliber of players that will get fans in a frenzy because they “missed out” on these guys – then maybe, just maybe – you’ve lost it a little.

It’s easy for fans to say, get this guy – spend this money and fill that hole.  But the NFL is all about the right guys who fit in the right systems.  This is why an intelligent player like Richard Sherman, who’s only worked in one defensive system in his career, chose to sign with the 49ers who run a similar defensive scheme.   This is why teams like the Jets and Vikings are looking at Kirk Cousins to be their next quarterback.  Cousins just ran a west-coast style offense in Washington, and the Vikings and Jets (if we are to judge by their offensive coordinator hires) will be doing something of the same ilk.  Meanwhile, former Bears linebacker Christian Jones who played in a 3-4 defensive scheme is now going to play for the Lions who typically run a 4-3 defensive scheme, so if this signing turns out to be a bad one – there’s your first big clue as to why.

Listen, everyone loves free agency.  But when it comes to cursing out a general manager because he didn’t fill “a hole” with some over-priced shiny new object, there is no reason to throw a fit or curse your general manager’s family from now till eternity.  Oh, and it definitely doesn’t call for burning players’ jerseys.  That’s just stupid.  If we’ve learned anything it’s that winning teams are put together by smart people.  The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers pretty much get it.  They never want to over-pay for talent – they’d rather find those who can fit in their systems.

Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

So if you’re team is sitting on millions upon millions of dollars and not spending it like crazy in free agency, don’t flip out.  There’s a draft and there is also a coaching staff in place that is there to make players better – imagine that. . .

I mean, if you’re a Jets fan though.  Yeah, I’d be mad as all hell, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


Beating Vegas: Playoff Positioning

Week Seventeen of the NFL season is the trickiest of all when it comes to getting an edge against the spread.  For some teams it’s “win and you’re in” while others need help from other teams so they can get into the playoff dance.

Cleveland Browns +10.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Yes, this is a very predictable start for this week’s Beating Vegas.  The Steelers need to win in order to secure home field advantage but they also need the New England Patriots to lose their game against the Jets.  The last time the Steelers played the Browns,  it was week one and the Steelers squeaked by 21-18.  This loss was looked upon as a positive for the Cleveland Browns, who hung in there and made things difficult for Pittsburgh, but that premature optimism was proven to be idiotic because they are currently on a 15 game losing streak (just in case you didn’t figure it out, that means they haven’t won a game all season long).  Cleveland is in the pitts (burgh? eh. . .) and now many on this team are just auditioning to keep their jobs on the team or trying to play themselves off of it. . .  Cleveland’s one positive all year has been their rush defense but in the last two weeks, they’ve let up 4 yards per rush against Melvin Gordon and then 5.4 yards a carry against Baltimore’s Alex Collins.  Steelers running back LeVeon Bell was held to 32 yards rushing the last time he went up against Cleveland and will be looking to make his mark this week.  Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer seems to get worse every week – while hovering at the 50% completion mark with only 9 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. Pittsburgh’s pass defense is ranked in the top 10 this year and will have no problem confusing  “Disheveled Kizer.”  Pittsburgh is also top ten in rushing yards allowed in the NFL so this shouldn’t be a repeat performance of week one.

The Pick:  Pittsburgh -10.5

Carolina Panthers +4  at Atlanta Falcons

This game is interesting because two other games that directly affect the Falcons and the Panthers playoff hopes are being played at the same time.  Here is the breakdown for the NFC South:

  • New Orleans wins the NFC South if they beat the Bucs or if the Panthers lose
  • The Panthers win the NFC South if they beat the Falcons AND the Saints lose
  • The Falcons get a wildcard berth if they win OR if the Seahawks (who also play at 4:30) lose.

Keeping all this in mind, the public is going to jump all over the Panthers getting points against a team that since last year’s Super Bowl has been a punchline. . . The Falcons offense, has indeed taken a step back – but remember the numbers they were putting up – it was video-game-like.  Matt Ryan is still completing passes at 65%, Julio Jones has over 1300 receiving yards and the Falcons possess the second best running back duo in the league with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman (behind the Saints).   If Coleman’s concussion symptoms linger – Freeman has proven before he can carry the load for the whole four quarters. . . the Panthers defense is what generally keeps them competitive, but they are allowing 4.1 yards a rush and let opponents throw against them for a completion percentage of 64%.  Atlanta is pretty much right there defensively with Carolina – but nobody really talks about that. . . out of these two teams, Carolina is definitely the one you don’t want to play in the playoffs because their style of play can travel well; but in this scenario the Falcons at home are the play.  Don’t be cheap though – buy the whole point and give yourself the -3, even maybe buy a point and a half.

The Pick: Atlanta Falcons -4

Cincinnati Bengals +9.5 at the Baltimore Ravens

For the Ravens it’s pretty simple – win and you’re in.  It seems almost too simple.  You beat the Bengals and you’re in though, and the Bengals at 6-9 have nothing going for them. . .nothing except playing the role of spoiler to the Ravens.  The last time these teams played was on week one were the Ravens shut out the Bengals 20-0.  The Ravens went on to shut out two more teams this year (the Dolphins and the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, big whoop) and pretty much lucked in with second year running back Alex Collins who is averaging 4.7 yards a carry.  Joe Flacco is the most underwhelming “franchise quarterback” in the NFL, and it’s been that way for about four or five years.  Sure he completes 65% of his passes, but he only averages about 6 yards a pass.  Cincy might be without running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict this week, but believe it or not, there is so much talent on both sides of the ball, it shouldn’t make a difference.  Yes, I said it, there is actual talent here.  The results don’t show it and that is why this is head coach Marvin Lewis’ last year.  Expect the leaders on this team – quarterback Andy Dalton and wide-out AJ Green to expect their teammates to send their coach out with a win, against their division rival.  This is a team with nothing to lose, getting almost ten points and in a position to play spoiler against a division rival.  Who wouldn’t love the odds here!?

The Pick: Bengals +9.5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio





Beating Vegas: Sorry Chief

Kansas City Chiefs  +3.5 at New York Jets

The Kansas City Chiefs have lost four of their last six games and are currently in the midst of  a three-game losing streak.  This is the same Kansas City Chiefs team that started out the season 5-0 and had people thinking that Alex Smith was a legit contender for the MVP award this season. . . yeah, things have changed -drastically for the Chiefs.   This is an offense that is sputtering – not being able to hit the 20-point-mark in their last four games, and it’s not all on Alex Smith.  Running back Kareem Hunt started out the season looking like he would run away with rookie of the year honors, but in his last six games he has averaged just 3.15 yards a carry and has not topped the 100-yard-rushing mark in a game.  The pass defense, on paper, looks good only letting opponents complete – an NFL best – 55% of their passes – but they’ve been able to bolster that number going against offenses like the Giants, the Bills and the Broncos as of late. . . This week’s opponent, the New York Jets – have exceeded very, very, very low season expectations and the veteran quarterback Josh McCown is leading quite an impressive aerial attack.  Yes, the Jets are 4-7 but McCown is completing 67% of his passes and he has formed a great chemistry with the speedy wide-receiver Robby Anderson, who has scored a touchdown in each of his last five games. Wide-out Jermaine Kearse is on pace to having the best season of his career and is neck and neck with Anderson in receptions.  At this point the Jets just seem like the team that is playing harder and the Chiefs have lost their identity.  Add to the fact that this is the Chiefs second cross country visit to New York in the last three weeks and there are now rumors of Andy Reid having Alex Smith on a short leash, this points all the way to the Jets.  Watch the line even out by kickoff.

The Pick: Jets +3.5

Cleveland Browns +13.5 at San Diego Chargers

Cleveland has been broken down here at Beating Vegas, countless times already this season. . . good run defense / worst offense in the league. That pretty much sums them up. Fans are calling for another new regime, another quarterback to be taken in the first round and they are getting ready for another season to come to a merciful end. Deshone Kizer’s five touchdowns coupled with fourteen interceptions would get him benched in any other town – he has been benched actually – but he always comes back, because – why not? Running back Duke Johnson, was basically the only bright spot of this offense, but it seems Corey Coleman is almost back to his old self after returning to the field two weeks ago.  What people will be looking forward to seeing though is the return of troubled wide-out Josh Gordon.  The last time Gordon played meaningful football was in 2014.  . .  with no disrespect to Deshaun Watson – the Browns are playing a quarterback this week who is the consummate professional at his position – Philip Rivers.   Rivers has the Chargers actually thinking about the AFC West division and a playoff birth (yes, they are 5-6 and that pretty much puts them right in the mix) and with the supporting cast he has at his disposal, this could be one of the more damaging dissections of this Browns secondary that we’ve seen all year.  The Browns are allowing opponents to complete passes at a rate of 67% and as a defense are allowing quarterbacks to generate a 103 rating against them.  Regardless of who’s out there running routes for Cleveland, they still have the worse quarterback in the league under center, and he’ll be under pressure from two of the best pass rushers in the business in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

The Pick: Chargers -13.5

Pittsburgh Steelers -5 at Cincinnati Bengals

In the last ten meetings of this AFC North rivalry, the Cincinnati Bengals have only come away with two victories.  The Steelers pretty much own the Bengals and that’s not ground-breaking news to anyone even half-way-familiar with the Bengals.  The Bengals are pretty much one of the more underwhelming franchises of all time.  Even if they make the playoffs, you know they’re getting the boot in the first round. . . but.  . . there is something about a home underdog on Monday Night Football.   No, I’m not one of those superstitious-line-watchers who believe it’s a “lock” to take the home under dog on Monday Night Football, but this time around, it’s something to consider.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are probably the “phoniest” 9-2 team you’ll ever see.  They play down to the level of their competition as if it’s their job.  This is proven by their three-point victories over the Aaron Rodger-less Packers, the Cleveland Browns (look above to see how awful they are) and the Colts.  Let us not forget that this Steelers team actually LOST to the lowly Chicago Bears as well.  This game will be determined by how early and hard the Bengals hit the Steelers.  Five points is a lot, and it seems like a line that is put there because of the “public” – more than football reasons.

The Pick: Bengals +5

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: L.A. Non-Consequential

Pittsburgh Steelers -3 at Baltimore Ravens

Forget about the actual spread, and lets take a look at the over/under number of 42.  This match up is typically a grudge match and here is how the numbers look since 2010:  Three games have gone completely over, two of those games have been right at 42 and three of those games have gone to 43 points (one of those meetings needed overtime to do so). That leaves the other 7 meetings to obviously go under our “magic number.”  This year the Steelers look “un-even” and Baltimore looked like they had the best defense in the league until (excuse me as I double check the stats) Blake Bortles threw for 244 yards and 4 touchdowns against them – yeah, I know. . . The Steelers lost to a Chicago Bears team who’s offense is as one dimensional as one can get and had to squeak by a Cleveland Browns team, that is ___________ (you can fill in the blank).  Bottom line is, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense is probably just as hard to watch as the Panthers are now-a-days and it seems that “Big Ben” Roethlisburger may have finally lost a step.  Expect a 13-10 thriller, and it doesn’t matter who wins.  We all lose if we watch this game.

The Pick: The Under at 42 points

Philadelphia Eagles +1.5 at the Los Angeles Chargers

We’re taking a look at this game because of the optics.  Both teams got worked by Kansas City, but if not for two botched field goals, the Chargers would be sitting at 2-1 much like the Eagles.  Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has gotten off to a slow start this season averaging less than 7 yards a pass, with 4 touchdowns mirroring 4 interceptions.  The public is riding high on the Eagles this week with 68% of the money going that way, which isn’t surprising because the national and local public pay no mind to the Chargers anyway.  The Eagles escaped with a win against New York, as the Giants realized too late that the Eagles have no secondary.  The Chargers, when compared to the Giants have a formidable group of wide-outs, a better offensive line and yes, a better quarterback.  On top of all that you got a team coming off a win against a division rival traveling 3000 miles to the team football forgot.  Great time for the home team to pick up their first win of the season.

The Pick: The Chargers -1.5

Here at Beating Vegas, we’re feeling good about those two picks.  The rest of the match-ups don’t look to pleasant but for the sake of writing down a third “lock” as we always do, here we go. . .

Cincinnati Bengals -3 at Cleveland Browns

Last week told us two things, the Browns aren’t good enough to beat the Colts and the Bengals should be almost good enough to beat the Packers.  It might sound crazy, but that tells a lot.  The Colts possess one of the worst rosters in the NFL this season (and last season) so for the  Browns to put up the “L” against them is atrocious.  The Bengals, came out the gates looking like the NFL’s only punchline.  A firing of an offensive coordinator and the discovery of using Joe Mixon, gave the offense some life though.  The Bengals actually DO have a good roster – that’s never been the problem, it’s been coaching – eh, yeah and sometimes it’s Andy Dalton as well. . . Bottom line is people keep looking for the Browns to turn the corner and for the Bengals to stump their big toe on the curb – truth is, neither of that will happen.  At least not this year.

The Pick: The Bengals -3

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Will The Pats Start 0-2?

New England Patriots -6 at New Orleans Saints

Last week’s 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs left Patriots fans feeling empty and it gave Vegas fat(ter) pockets.  Last week’s season opener was one of the biggest wins the wise-guys had on an opening day game.  The Patriots made losers out of anybody who took them straight up, second half, teasers, parlays etc. . . More so, the Patriots defense could not get their pass rush going and the offense seemed lack-luster.  Could this be the end of Tom Brady?  Most likely not.  Super Heroes go out as winners, usually.  Now, the public has to decide if the Pats reign over the NFL is coming to an end, or if the Pats will rectify this embarrassing loss.  The Saints on the other hand,  weren’t embarrassed by the Vikings last week, but they were definitely kept in check for all four quarters.  The Saints showed that their defense is still “bleh” and they also showed that the signing of running back Adrian Peterson is going to be a headache for most of the year.  Peterson is the least valuable back out of the three-man-rotation in the Saints backfield and that isn’t going to sit well with the future hall of famer.  Aside from that drama though, Drew Brees still completed 73% of his passes against a good pass rush, so just imagine what he’ll accomplish against this Patriots defense.  The Patriots are still winning the division, they can probably even win this game – but the Saints have the upper hand playing at home to avoid the 0-2 start.

The Pick: Saints +6

Minnesota Vikings +4.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

Weren’t we just discussing the Vikings?  Yes, we were.  Quarterback Sam Bradford looked amazing carving up the Saints defense, and rookie running back Dalvin Cook, proved to be worth the first round pick running for 127 yards in his first game.  The Steelers opened as a 10 point favorite last week against AFC North doormat, the Cleveland Browns, but had to hold on tight for the entire ride to come out on top 21-18.  Really wasn’t an impressive win for the Steelers who people expect to have an almost unstoppable offense this year. Pats Pulpit on SB Nation wrote up a piece going in detail about how Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is a completely different player at home than he is on the road.  In the last three years he’s thrown 62 touchdowns at home compared to 24 on the road and has a quarterback rating of 109.5 compared to a traveling QB rate of 85.3.  This is another case of the public seeing Minnesota look great on national television and getting the points against a veteran team who struggled against the lowly Browns.  Don’t fall for the trap.

The Pick: Steelers -4.5

Arizona Cardinals -7 at the Indianapolis Colts

I’ve got issues with both of these teams.  First, the Colts. . . Chuck Pagano is the worst coach in the NFL.  And has been for years.  Why is he still the coach of the Colts?  Oh, because the Colts are one of the more poorly run franchises in the NFL.  They have failed to give Andrew Luck a competent coach or a decent team; and now it seems their medical staff may have failed Andrew Luck who is still sidelined.  Colts quarterback Scott Tolzien looked awful against the Rams last week and even if newly acquired Jacoby Brissett doesn’t know the playbook yet, he’s the better option.  Jacoby Brissett is a “Beating Vegas” favorite because he was the reason money was put on N.C. State when he was the one under center.  With that being said, the Colts are awful. . . And that leaves us with the Cardinals.  The most disappointing, under achieving team in the NFL.  Unlike the Colts’ Pagano, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is actually a great coach – but something just isn’t clicking on this team.  Where it needs to click the most is the quarterback position but folks, remember you heard it hear first (said it last year too) – Carson Palmer is done.  He has nothing behind his throws and reminds me of the Cap Rooney character Dennis Quaid played in the movie “Any Given Sunday.”  This will be one of the most toughest games to watch this year.

The Pick: The Under at 44

Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Big Ben’s Ticking Clock

After last week’s embarrassing blow-out loss to the New England Patriots, the  Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger went on  93.7 The Fan, on Pittsburgh radio and sent a nervous tingle throughout Steeler Nation.  Big Ben went over the airwaves and stated the following:  “I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options, to consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season.”  

If there was a bigger “if” spoken in the history of Pittsburgh sports it was probably never spoken in my lifetime.  Big Ben will be 35 years old in March, and has 13 years under his belt as an NFL quarterback.  He’s taken a beating physically – some of it his fault, some of it not his fault – but nonetheless, his body is definitely going through aches and pains that most men his age would feel when they turned 60.

So, is Big Ben’s declaration of “maybe” retiring a thing to be taken seriously.  Yes, and no.

Ben has two more years on his contract and he isn’t walking away from any money. Period, point blank.  What Ben is doing here though are two things.  1. Sending a message to the Steelers brass and 2. Acting, as what the kids would call “butt-hurt.”

The message to the Steelers organization is that he has two more years left.  He’s given everything he can.  For all things considered, he helped lead this team to the AFC Championship when most didn’t see that coming.  The Steelers have, arguably, the best offensive weapons in the league at their respective positions – wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back LeVeon Bell.  To repeat the kind of success this offense had this season would mean to retain the services of Bell, find a tight end that doesn’t get hurt and a compliment at wideout to Brown who doesn’t get suspended.

This is Roethlisberger not saying that he’ll leave – but one day, he won’t be under center for this team anymore and who knows how long it’ll take them to replace a player of his caliber.

It would be considerate of Big Ben to not leave this kind of notion in the air for too long though – considering the team is in “post-post-season” mode, which means they are looking at contracts, upcoming free agents and an NFL Draft to mold their franchise for next season.

Remember a few paragraphs ago when I referred to Roethilsberger as “butt-hurt?”  Well, I meant it.  The Steelers just lost to the Patriots by a score of 36-17.  And although the final score is what you’ll read, visually that game looked like 56-10.  The proud Steelers organization and it’s high profiled offensive stars were thoroughly embarrassed on national television.  Talking to a quarterback about the upcoming season after getting waxed like that, is like asking a girl if she’ll take her boyfriend back, when they just broke up five minutes ago.   Neither one is thinking straight and both are going to answer the question over-emotionally, with very little common sense involved in the equation.

So in this instance, Roethlisberger is a 19 year old girl.  But he has good reason to be.  As hinted at earlier, the window of opportunity for this squad is one or two more years.  One if we’re being realistic.  It’s a clutch and suave move by Roethlisberger.  When things aren’t going the way you like it, make some threats, stomp your feet and hope daddy buys you a new car – or in this case, hope the Steelers give Ben the help he needs to make it to another Super Bowl.


twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Eighteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: If not for a backdoor touchdown scored by Clemson, we would’ve split the games last week.  Instead we got our first losing week in about a month and a half.  Although, I will say this: The playoffs will not count against my winnings for the entire football season.  There was a healthy plethora of games to pick from week to week, and now with the NFL playoffs, it’s slim pickings on how you want to wager your money. . .


Green Bay Packers (+7) at the Arizona Cardinals


Last week, the Packers made fools of everyone who believed that the Washington Redskins would skate away with a convincing win.  Now a Packers team that feels good about itself is going back to a place where they felt their worst all season long.  Back in week 16 of the season, the Packers visited Arizona and were destroyed by the  Cardinals 38-8.  The Packers were sacked 9 times in the meeting and to say their offense was suffocated by the Cardinals defense is an understatement.  Carson Palmer and the Cardinals offense found themselves in prime field position for most of the game.  It was 31-0 in the third quarter and the game was over.  This time around, Green Bay’s offensive line has a renewed brand of confidence after handling the Redksins defensive front (albeit after giving up a safety) and revenge will be key for the Packers in this one.   The thing about the Cardinals is that they are coached by a man who some say is the smartest/best coach in the NFL in Bruce Arians.  Arians saw how his defense dominated in that last meeting and will find different ways to attack.  Green Bay’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has abandoned the pocket frequently this season and one should expect that trend to continue.  Green Bay will stick around in this one with Arizona pulling it off in the end.

The Pick: Arizona -7

Kansas City Chiefs (+4.5) at the New England Patriots


Kansas City pretty much had an unofficial bye-week in the first round of the playoffs and now they go against Tom Brady and the Patriots.  The Patriots and the NFL Playoffs go together like Bill Cosby and . . . nah, I won’t go there – The Patriots and the NFL Playoffs go together like peanut butter and jelly (boring, yet safe).  New England has an ambiance about them which many perceive as arrogance but if you’re the Patriots, you’ve earned the right to be arrogant . . . and hated.  The Kansas City Chiefs are allergic to losing as they have knocked out 11 straight victories since last losing to the Vikings on October 18th.  The Patriots needed the bye-week in the Playoffs after suffering back to back loses to division rivals the Jets and the Dolphins.  Both of those games should raise flags for the New England faithful because both of those teams they lost to, play a physical brand of defense  – and one team, in the Dolphins, doesn’t blow you away offensively and against the Pats, they seemed to do enough to win.   The Patriots are hurting offensively, with an offensive line that is underwhelming and outside of Rob Gronkowski, no real threat to worry about for an opposing secondary.   Tom Brady is a legend and it’s hard to count against him, especially in the playoffs – but the Chiefs are on a tremendous winning streak and are getting points against a New England team that is favored because of their legacy and not of what they presently represent.

The Pick: Kansas City +4.5


The Pittsburgh Steelers (+7) at the Denver Broncos


It was only four weeks ago, that the Steelers were a seven point dog to the Broncos, except last time it was the Steelers that were home, and it was the Steelers who not only covered the spread but won the game outright (as predicted by yours truly here).  Things are different this time around.  Steelers’ running back Deangelo Williams is highly unlikely to play due to injury, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is day-to-day with a shoulder injury and wide receiver Antonio Brown is under the NFL’s concussion protocol.  With those three weapons in doubt, things look very grim for the Steelers.  The Steelers’ best-case-scenario would be Brown being cleared to play, Roethlisberger playing through discomfort and Williams still being sidelined.  That even seems tough to swallow, especially when going against this Denver Broncos defense.  The offense of the Broncos will be led by Peyton Manning, but this isn’t the Manning we’re used to seeing, this version of Manning still spends a half hour calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, but to ultimately throw a duck towards the sideline or check it down to the nearest receiver.   Safe to say, Rothlisberger  will force himself out on that field and he may not look much better than the previously mentioned Manning.  .  .  this is how we’re doing the pick for this one:

The Pick(s):  If Antonio Brown and Rothlisberger play, take the Steelers +7; If either one of them are not available, they won’t move the ball against Denver, so take Denver -7.

Hope you guys got that!  And as always, Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


Beating Vegas: Entry Sixteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: 50/50 weeks give you the thrill of the “highs and lows” but ultimately do nothing for you, so we’ll get back to being our typical selves at over 50% this week.

The Texas Bowl:

Texas Tech (+7) vs LSU


For a decent amount of time during the season, LSU was one of the more intriguing teams in college football.  Most of that was due to their running back Leonard Fournette who thrashed college football for over 1700 rushing yards this season.  Fournette was a Heisman hopeful (and favorite) until he played against formidable defenses that realized they can stack as many defenders in the box to stop the run because the LSU passing attack was pretty much non-existent.   That’s not entirely quarterback Brandon Harris’ fault though – the LSU offense is  built off and dominated by their rushing attack.  Texas Tech has a high octane offense that averages 46.6 points per game (second to only Baylor in the Pac-12) but defensively they give up 42.6 points a game, and let opponents rush for an average of 5.6 yards a carry.  This is “lunch-time” for this LSU rushing attack.  LSU’s defense may have difficulty at first against the passing attack of Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders’ offensive line will have the task and a half of dealing with the LSU pass rush.  Bottom line is, Texas Tech is fun to look at, but their offense has struggled against defenses that have the talent to go against them, like Oklahoma and Baylor.  LSU is playing for a coach they love, who was  given a new life at LSU.  Tech has their hands full.

The Pick: LSU -7

The Holiday Bowl:

Wisconsin (+3) vs USC


Looking at the numbers it would appear that Wisconsin’s defense is stellar: They allow a Big 10 best, 3.2 yards a carry and their pass defense has opponents completing less than 50% of their passes with only six touchdowns allowed paired with eleven interceptions.  Those are impressive numbers until they throw The Big Tahiry into the conversation – BUT (Get it?  No?  Let’s move on. . .).  Wisconsin’s defensive stats look good BUT, they didn’t really get tested by any stellar offenses this year.  Nebraska is a team you never know what you get week to week and they put up 21 against them, in what was probably their best offensive threat on the schedule.  USC’s offense is a balanced attack that has averaged 35 points a game this season, paired with a defense which equally as balanced.  USC has been tested on the field and off the field this season and this bowl game means something to them.  Wisconsin probably has the worst starting quarterback in all of the bowl games in Joel Stave and their rushing attack is not what it’s been in the last few years.  Wisconsin’s reputation is the only reason why this spread isn’t higher – USC is trying to re-establish their reputation and they have the talent to do it.

The Pick: USC -3

Cotton Bowl:

Michigan State (+10) vs Alabama

The Alabama Crimson Tide are a well oiled machine.  The architect of this machine is head coach Nick Saban, who like many great architects make sure things look aesthetically fine and are built strong enough to withstand whatever disasters are thrown in it’s way.  Alabama’s offense led by Heisman winner, running back Derrick Henry, plays just as tough as their defense which only allows 14.4 points per game.  Although Henry is their “bell-cow” running back, the offense plays versatile enough to keep any defense they play on their toes.  Michigan State is led by potential first round draft pick, quarterback Connor Cook.  Cook is a confident leader who’s touchdown to interception ratio is an impressive 24/5 but most would say it has been an otherwise disappointing season for Cook, individually.  Cook has yet to have “that moment” where scouts can say “okay he’s the kind of guy to take an NFL franchise to the next level” – if there was any moment, it’s now – against Alabama’s defense.   The truth is, Michigan State wouldn’t even be in this position if not for a freak blocked punt/score at the end of that bizarre Michigan game, and they have been underwhelming all year long.   Another fun fact, Saban hasn’t lost to a coach who once coached under him. . . so, yeah. . . there’s that.  Sorry Mark Dantonio.

The Pick: Alabama -10


If you must: The Outback Bowl features a match up where Tennessee is the 8.5 point favorite over Northwestern.  Some games are hard to explain and this is one of them.  Tennessee was expected to finish in a better spot this year, although the team is improving under coach Butch Jones – the Volunteer faithful are just annoyed with its snail like approach to improving.  Their is so much talent on that Volunteer roster that it makes one wonder why they haven’t made that jump yet.  Northwestern is one of the peskiest teams to play against or figure out and it seems the bigger the opponent is, the harder they play.  Taking Northwestern with the points is an interesting play, especially when getting more than a touchdown.


Teaser of the Week: (Four Gamer) Baylor/UNC Over at 57.5; Florida/Michigan Under at 51; Steelers +2 and Buccaneers +22.5


Good Luck and Wager Wisely!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Beating Vegas: Entry Fifteen

Every week during the football season, “The Heartthrob” G.W. Gras will be giving out his college and professional football “best bets” against the spread.  The wise guys in Vegas live comfortably – it’s time we all get on their level.

Judging Last Week: Pushed on that sloppy and head scratching Jets win against Dallas, lost with Georgia State but covered with Ohio University and the big tease.  NFL is running high on emotion at this point of the year and there is no telling how these bowl games will unfold in college – BUT, we’ve been pretty much taking care of our faithful readers here at NGSCSports.Com, so don’t you worry, we got you!

The Bahamas Bowl (played at Thomas Robinson Stadium):

Middle Tennessee State (+4.5) vs Western Michigan

The line is interesting but the over/under is what you should be looking at.  Vegas has put the points total between the two universities at 63.  It’s a pretty big number but taking the ‘over’ just might be the way to go.  Out of the twelve games Western Michigan has played this year, nine have had a points total of at least 60 points.  Senior quarterback Zach Terrell will get to showcase his talents in this game in front of a national audience who isn’t familiar with him.  Terrell has thrown at a 68% completion rate, and has accumulated over 3200 yards and 27 touchdowns this season.   Middle Tennessee State has been averaging       points per game this season and it’s due to their aerial attack courtesy of sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill who’s stats mirror Terrell’s except he’s thrown for about 500 more yards.  Middle Tennessee is able to look good against the bad teams, but drew losses to better competition in the Sun Belt Conference (Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech) and had back to back losses against lowly BCS Conference opponents (Vanderbilt and Illinios).   Neither team has a defense that will scare off these high octane offenses but Western Michigan is clearly the more balanced of the two attacks.  Western Michigan is a pretty good bet at -4.5 but that over is too tempting to let go of.

The Pick: The Over at 63


The St. Petersburg Bowl (played at Tropicana Field)

Uconn (+4.5) vs Marshall

Nov 8, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies corner back Jamar Summers (21) returns an onside kick against Army at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

UConn is a pretty awful 6-6 team, who somehow beat a ranked Houston team during this season.  The UConn Huskies put up a putrid 17.8 points a game (second to last in the American Conference) BUT – this is a team that DOES have a defense allowing only 19.8 points per game (second in the conference, only to Temple).  UConn’s brand of football is uneventful and hard to look at, but it’s got them to a bowl game (for what it’s worth.)  Marshall’s defense is stout as well.  They were the best defense in Conference USA (18.4 points allowed per game).  Marshall’s opposition threw at a completion percentage under 50% against them, although when they played the aerial attacks of Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky, that number swelled considerably. . .  That won’t be an issue against UConn though, who as a team, struggle to run and struggle to pass.   Ultimately, Marshall will win the turn over battle and force enough three and outs that things will work out for them.

The Pick: Marshall -4.5


The Sun Bowl (played at Sun Bow Stadium)

Miami Hurricanes (+3) vs Washington State


The Washington State Cougars were a nice surprise out of the Pac-12 this year, finishing with an 8-3 record, mostly due to their aerial assault.  Wide receivers Gabe Marks and Dom Williams are both close to accomplishing some impressive highlights to their amazing seasons.  Marks has over 1100 receiving yards but he is one catch shy of 100 receptions, while Williams is three yards away from a 1000 yard season.   These two talented wide outs have been the beneficiaries of their quarterback Luke Falk who has thrown for 37 touchdowns and has completion percentage of 70%.    The Miami Hurricanes defense has 15 interceptions on the year and hold opponents to less than 200 yards through the air.  That is nearly half of what Luke Falk averages per game throwing the ball —  Something has GOT to give.   Miami’s rush defense is terrible but that shouldn’t matter because the Cougars barely run the ball anyhow.  Offensively the Hurricanes live and die by quarterback Bray Kaaya who isn’t a bad quarterback but has very little help around him and at times pushes too much.

The Pick: The Over at 61


If You Must:   The Pittsburgh Steelers at -10 over their rival the Baltimore Ravens seems like a slam dunk.  The Ravens offense has turned into “throw it to Aiken and let’s see what happens” while their defense has turned into “let’s sleep walk through this season and see what happens.”  The Steelers are coming into the end of the regular season hot and if Big Ben remains healthy there is no reason this team can’t put up five touchdowns a game.  The Ravens haven’t even scored five touchdowns in their last three games. . .

Tease of the Week: (four gamer) Cowboys/Bills Under 55; Chiefs – .5; Marshall +7.5 and Seahawks -1.5


Good Luck, Wager Wisely and Happy Holidays!

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


Pittsburgh Steelers 2015 Preview

The Steelers of Pittsburgh have a lot of fantasy football nerds hyped over their offense’s potential.  They do everything right on the offensive side of the ball but for the Steelers, to enter a season and have their offense talked about more than their defense – it’s a rare occurrence – actually one might be hard pressed to see if that was ever the case for Pittsburgh.

This defense is young and is depending on their young core of linebackers to carry the weight of this unit.  Jarvis Jones was a first-round pick in 2013 who seemed to be coming into his own last year until he got hurt.  Ryan Shazier was their first-round pick out of Ohio State last season, but like Jones, had his share of injuries that slowed him down.  This season, the Steelers kept putting faith into the linebacker surplus coming out of college and they drafted Kentucky linebacker, Bud Dupree in the first-round.  Dupree is a nice athlete, but is raw when it comes to what they need: pass rushing.  His instincts in the “search and destroy” department still need help, but he’s excellent when needed to drop back into zone coverage.  With the right coaching he could develop into a nice linebacker.   Lawrence Timmons and Arthur Moats are the veterans on this squad which is coming into the season under the radar.  This has the potential to be the best linebacker rotation in the league if things pan out right.  The health of Jones and Shazier will play a huge role.


The defensive line will look different without the intensity and the amazing beard of defensive end Brett Keisel.  Nobody on this roster can fill the void the beard left (literally, the beard) but someone needs to be the aggressor up front.  The Steelers are hoping to see more improvement from their sophomore end Stephon Tuitt.  What he lacks in intensity, he has in intellect.  He just needs to see the plays quicker as he at times is a step too late at the line.  Steve McLendon may be the starter at nose-tackle, but the world wants to see more of the 6’7″ 350-plus pounder Daniel McCullers.   McCullers is just a fun guy to watch, but it’s impossible to keep this monster on the field for too long, especially against fast paced offenses.

The secondary wasn’t too good when Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu were a part of it last year, and now with both men retired, the situation hasn’t gotten better.   Their best player in the secondary may be a seventh-round pick from Louisville, safety Gerod Holliman.  Holliman is more of a finesse player at the position, which is far from what fans in Pittsburgh are used to.  Especially after seeing Polamalu for all those years.

Ben Roethlisberger is under center for what may be one of the more explosive offenses he’s had at his disposal.  Ben was a marvel last year throwing thirty-two touchdowns and only nine interception for over 4900 yards.  He still plays with a chip on his shoulder and is still elusive in the pocket regardless of his huge frame.   If he had any issues with offensive coordinator Todd Haley before, he’s obviously passed it all now.


In front of Big Ben is all-pro center Maurkice Pouncey leads a steady and dependable offensive line that helped this offense finish second in time of possession, yards per game and passing yards per game.  The impressive thing about this line is how a guard like David DeCastro or Ramon Foster are able to tail out and block on the outside in the screen game.

The Steelers offense was jump-started by running back Le’Veon Bell, who is suspended the first two games of the season for a DUI arrest.  Bell had over 2200 yards last season and will continue to be the focal point of this attack.  The Steelers got some insurance this season by signing long-time Panther DeAngelo Williams to the mix.  Williams will be used mostly to spell Bell, but in those first two weeks, he will carry the load.  Williams too often has been hit or miss week to week.


Remember when the Steelers had to decide between Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace a few years back?  Safe to say, Pittsburgh made the right choice.  For too long Brown, was going under the radar – this year, don’t expect to get him in the fourth round of your fantasy draft, especially after having a monster season with nearly 1700 receiving yards.  Brown is accompanied by speed and athleticism all along the depth chart at the receiver position.  People are expecting big things from former Clemson Tiger Martavius Bryant, who is a tall receiver with great speed; Markus Wheaton would be the number two wide-out on this team if not for the talent of Bryant – but Wheaton playing in the slot role, fits him better anyway.

The Steelers are primed for a deep playoff run, even with the lack of a secondary.   They are multifaceted on the offensive side of the ball and an MVP caliber season from Big Ben should be expected.

Predicted Record: 11-5

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Ryan Shazier, Martavius Bryant, Le’Veon Bell

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio