TNF best bets: Any value to be had in Steelers-Patriots?
"Do we have to?"
If you're a parent, you've heard this a few times, especially if you've been dragging your kids to the mall or various parties as your holiday season social calendar fills up.
'Tis the season for a plethora of football, hand-in-hand with good tidings. And this quarterback matchup of Bailey Zappe and Mitch Trubisky also brings a reminder that we don't have to bet every game.
Why don't we want to bet on this game?
Had Kenny Pickett not gotten injured falling short of the goal line, setting up Najee Harris' fourth-down failure, maybe Pittsburgh would have proven worthy of laying points against the Cardinals. In retrospect, giving near a touchdown with the Steelers is a bad idea at the best of times. With Trubisky, it only gets worse. Optimism is so low that the Patriots got shut out last week and the line was adjusted toward New England from -6.5 in lookahead lines.
Trubisky is supposed to score more points than Justin Herbert did against a Patriots defense that's allowed a combined 26 points in the last three weeks. Since the Colts scored a touchdown on the 75-yard opening drive of their game in Germany, the Patriots have allowed scoring drives of only 20, 26, 41, 8, and 7 yards.
So why not take the points with the Patriots? Well, they just played a game where they couldn't cover +5 despite allowing six points. Trubisky isn't likely to conduct many long drives, but four scoring possessions of under 30 yards in the last three games suggest the Patriots' offense could provide enough short fields that the Steelers won't need much yardage to score. As we saw against the Chargers, virtually any scoring might be good enough to cover against the Patriots.
Given the bearish outlook on both teams' offense, why not bet on the under?
That's the wager I'd prefer, but if you hadn't noticed, the total starts with a two. Anything under 30 would be the lowest total in over 30 years. It's probably ill-advised to take the under on a historically low number, especially with weather a non-issue.
Any combination of long pass-interference penalties, a broken tackle, a crazy bounce, special-teams scoring, or a defensive touchdown could result in points without the offenses doing anything at all, and before you know it, it's 13-13 in the third quarter.
As long as you're ready for anything and have low expectations, you can be entertained by this game, but there's no bet to be confident about. So, for the first time all season, we'll skip the side or total - at least for a play on the main board - on Thursday Night Football.
Ezekiel Elliott: Over 58.5 rushing yards
Chargers-Patriots was low-scoring and close, with New England trailing, but it didn't stop the Pats from handing the ball off 26 times to Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott. Stevenson went out with a high ankle sprain and won't play Thursday, which means one thing: all Zeke, all the time. This might be Elliott's last season, but with one chance to be the core of an NFL offense and New England looking to take the ball out of Zappe's hands, look for the Patriots to feed Zeke against a Steelers run defense that took it in the teeth from James Conner on Sunday.
Total field goals: Over 3.5
Both teams to make a field goal in each half (+700)
A silly game deserves a silly bet. While crossing the goal line might be challenging for these two teams with these two quarterbacks, they could take turns giving each other reasonable field position. With little wind and above-freezing temperatures, it should be a decent night for kicking and the coaches should be looking to take any points they can get.
If you can find the long-shot prop - each team to make a field goal in each half - that could be a fun way to stay engaged as a bonus wager to go along with more than three field goals for the game.
Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.