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Do the New York Jets Have the Motivation to Play Spoiler?
Unlike the Bengals, the New York Jets believe they have their franchise QB in Sam Darnold. (Well, maybe they do, maybe they don’t. You would have to ask each Jet individually what their confidence level is in the Samchise.) What is clear is that the Jets will give Darnold every opportunity to turn this franchise around for at least the foreseeable future.
I think their relative certainty at QB makes their draft position more important. Drafting a QB is very situation-specific. The Arizona Cardinals, for example, likely could have drafted Kyler Murray in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd spot last year, because they identified a direction with him that likely would not have interested the 49ers or NY Jets. When drafting a Non-QB, however, it’s far more about finding the best player available.
A win could take the Jets from the #7 Draft Slot to the #14 Draft slot. Assured of at least one more year in New York, Jets HC Adam Gase might be wary of winning this game.
How Must of a Must-Win is this for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers?
Pittsburgh Steelers Current Playoff Odds according to 538 are 42% If Steelers win, they go up to 65%. And if they lose, they go down to 17%. Hm. Big swing. But does it matter?
Louis CK had a joke routine where he would go “Of course!… But maybe…”
Example: Children with nut allergies need to be protected. Of course!… But maybe…maybe if touching a nut kills you, you’re supposed to die…
Allow me to borrow this conceit to ask this question:
Does Mike Tomlin really want this Steelers team to make the playoffs?
Of course! Making the playoffs is an incredibly lucrative achievement for the franchise, and a badge of honor on any coach’s resume. Moreover, making the playoffs under these circumstances could lead to Mike Tomlin earning the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year. He would become only the second Pittsburgh coach to earn the award (Cowher, 1992). Of course, Tomlin wants desperately to get into the dance! Of course!…
But maybe…Maybe he doesn’t need all that attention following around this mediocre team. Maybe in his personal record book, the only achievements he strives for are Super Bowl appearances and victories. And with his current Sophie’s choice between Delvin Hodges and Mason Rudolph at QB, maybe he doesn’t think this Pittsburgh team has a realistic chance of doing anything in the playoffs. Maybe he wouldn’t mind avoiding adding L to his playoff W/L record.
Of course, I think Tomlin could take a lie detector test and ace this question: Do you want to win this game. At the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if deep down he feels it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to lose this game. It’s pretty impressive already that he already has 8 wins and has kept alive his perfect streak of never having a losing season. Surely this year has greatly solidified his job security already.
Can Steelers Sustain their Rapid Rate of Takeaways?
If I only looked at the Steelers offensive numbers, and then I looked at their record, I would think Pittsburgh had one of the great defenses of all time. In fact, the Steelers do have a very strong defense, bolstered by an unbelievable recent rate of turnovers often leading directly to points. The Steelers are 2nd in the league with 2.5 takeaways per game. Unlike the Patriots and Seahawks, who are always strong in this category, the Steelers haven’t ended the year in the top 10 since 2015 season
The Steelers have 4 return touchdowns over their last 9 games, which has been a large part of keeping them afloat despite their offensive woes. Steelers are 25th in NFL with 19.2 points per game. Over the last 9 weeks, they have scored 170 points, 28 of which have come on Defensive/Special Teams return touchdowns.
Angle: So if both teams might have less than 100% motivation, which side do we bet on? The Steelers are clearly the better team, but they have struggled in this spot historically. The Steelers are 43% ATS all-time as a road favorite, and only 41% ATS as a road favorite in the Mike Tomlin era.
I would say take the Over 37.5 on the Total. Any lack of motivation will show up on the defensive side of the ball. Neither team needs to be conservative. Odds currently, available at FanDuel Sportsbook.