Look, when the Patriots and Steelers meet in Pittsburgh for “Thursday Night Football” to kick off Week 14, it probably won’t be pretty.
The two longtime AFC rivals are set to do battle Thursday night at Acrisure Stadium in a game that could go down in history for all the wrong history.
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For starters, neither team is very good. The Steelers have a nice 7-5 record that technically has them tied for second place in the AFC North. They are -130 at DraftKings Sportsbook to make the NFL playoffs. However, they also have an unsightly minus-37 point differential that ranks 22nd in the NFL. The defense is borderline elite, but the offense is a massive problem. In-season firings are borderline unheard of in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers sent offensive coordinator Matt Canada packing earlier this month. The offense ranks 18th by DVOA (which feels high) and 24th by expected points added. Oh, and they go into Thursday night without starting quarterback Kenny Pickett and a banged-up Najee Harris at running back.
There’s no grey area with the Patriots, though. They stink! This is perhaps the worst season of Bill Belichick’s entire career. It’s like he forgot offense was even part of the game still. New England comes in with an offense ranked 28th by DVOA, 30th by EPA and has the unfortunate distinction of being the first team in 85 years to lose three straight games after holding an opponent to 10 points or fewer in each.
Like the Steelers, though, the Patriots defense is still pretty good. So they do have that going for them.
Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why the betting market is quite bearish on these two teams’ ability to score points Thursday night. The total opened at 32.5, a number that seems laughably high in hindsight and was quickly bet down. As of Thursday afternoon, the NESNBets.com live odds page had the total sitting at 30. Thirty. It could still drop even lower, and as Covers.com pointed out earlier this week, we could see a historic over/under if it drops below 28.
That might be still too aggressive, but it did get us thinking about a very, very specific bet to make. NESN.com’s Mike Cole, who alongside Ricky Doyle cohosts “The Spread,” NESN’s football picks podcast, wondered aloud this week whether he could bet on a 0-0 tie. If there ever was a game for that to happen, it would be this one, right?
Sportsbooks offer exact-score bettors to swing the stick at, and if you think this is going to be a history-making suckfest, FanDuel Sportsbook is offering a 0-0 exact-score bet with a 500-1 payout.
They’re long shots for good reasons, but if you think about it, when the game projects to be so low-scoring, don’t you have a slightly better chance of predicting the score? Fewer points means fewer combinations, in theory, at least.
And if you’re expecting a painfully low-scoring game, FanDuel does have the following “exact” score bets to ponder:
0-0 tie: 500-1
Steelers 3-0: 180-1
Patriots 3-0: 190-1
Steelers 6-3: 110-1
Patriots 6-3: 110-1
Steelers 7-0: 200-1
Steelers 7-3: 210-1
And it goes on and on.
Is it a smart bet? Not necessarily. Is it kind of funny and at least brings some levity to an otherwise putrid game? Of course.