By Justin Boylan
*Reminder: The 94WIP Suicide Pool homepage is CBSPhilly.com/suicidepool.
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — That Steelers-Jets game screamed TRAP from the second the line came out early last week. It opened with the Steelers as a 1.5 or 2-point favorite in New York and worked its way up to 4.5 by the time kickoff rolled around on Sunday afternoon.
It made no sense. I personally spent hours during the week trying to comprehend what Vegas was thinking when it set the line. I texted as many friends as I could that fall somewhere between knowledgeable football fans and degenerate gamblers, looking for some kind of explanation. I got nothing.
Pittsburgh had ripped off three wins in a row, with two of the three against potential playoff teams in the Colts and Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger had thrown for 1,127 yards and 14 touchdowns with no turnovers in that three-game stretch. Fourteen touchdown passes in three weeks. That’s more than 12 teams have thrown all season, including the Jets. Speaking of, after beating the now 0-9 Raiders by five points in week 1, the Jets had lost eight straight games. The average score of those losses was 30-17.
I know the league fluctuates week to week and a team is rarely as good or bad as they were the last time we saw them, but logic spoke to me and said the spread had to be at least a touchdown for me to even consider taking the Jets. It was a stay-away game, and I stayed away.
But when you’re fighting to stay alive in the Suicide Pool, this late in the season, every game deserves a look. With no point-spread involved, boy did those red-hot Steelers look good. Just another reason why there are only 1,217 people left in the pool and seven weeks to go.
The TRAP game trapped just shy of 200 people, the largest kill of the week. Another 27 died last Thursday night at the hands (and terrible arm and horrible decisions) of Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals, four were buried by the Saints and Jimmy Graham’s slight push-off/Perrish Cox flop, and one stupid brave soul went out with the Panthers. SHOW YOURSELF.
Grim Reaper Selection – Saints vs. Bengals
Two teams looking to bounce back from very different, but very bad losses. Thanks to the pathetic play of NFC South, the 4-5 Saints are in first place and probably need just three more wins to lock up the division title. Sean Payton and Drew Brees have not lost back-to-back home games since 2009, when they started 13-0 and then dropped three straight. If Drew Brees is still the Drew Brees we think Drew Brees is he needs to be Drew Brees and win this game.
The Bengals are a long way from that 3-0 team many thought was the most complete team in football. Dalton has thrown two touchdown passes to six interceptions in his last four games, both touchdowns coming against the lowly Jaguars, and it doesn’t look like running back Giovani Bernard will be there to help out.
The Bengals defense is dead last in run defense DVOA, and on the flip side the Saints rushing attack is second only to the Seahawks. If the Saints are able to run the ball as effectively as they have been with Mark Ingram, setting up Brees and his play-action passes, this could be Thursday night all over again for Cincy.
Best Bet for Survival – Chargers vs. Raiders
Maybe this should be the Grim Reaper pick, because if Oakland is going to win a game this could be there one of their last chances to pull an upset. They still have Kansas City twice, one on a Thursday night, and games against the Rams and Bills, but the Raiders beating the Chargers just feels right. The two teams have split the season series two of the last three years, and in 2010 the Raiders actually swept them. In week 6, the Chargers won by a field goal after 10-straight fourth quarter points to escape embarrassment.
Oh sorry, this is my best bet, I forgot. The Chargers were off last week, and the bye couldn’t have come at a better time, after three losses in a row capped off by a 37-0 beat down by the Dolphins. Derek Carr had his best game of the season in that loss to the Chargers, throwing four touchdowns to one pick and posting his only QB rating over 100. He needs to somehow be better against a team that knows him and has had an extra week to prepare. Like Brees, Philip Rivers needs to win this game if he’s still Philip Rivers.
Cheating Death – Giants vs. 49ers
This line opened with the Niners as a 1.5 or 2-point favorite and it has since moved to a 4-point spread. Shouldn’t this line be higher? Sound familiar, Steelers fans? San Fran has to come east for a 1 o’clock game for the second straight week, and the Giants expect to get some backfield help with the return of Rashad Jennings. This feels like another stay-away game, I’d stay away.
Justin Boylan is a producer at 94WIP. Follow him on Twitter @justintboylan.
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