NFL and College Football Notebook
You have to go all the way back to the 2003 season to find the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered through a losing (see 6-10) campaign ... and it sure seems as if 2018 is gonna be a bumpy road for the guys in black-and-gold.
Start with the fact their superstar RB Le'Veon Bell is still MIA - and losing out on $850 K per game check - through these first four weeks of the here-and-now season and then consider that megastar WR Antonio Brown keeps posting modest stats as his 5 catches for just 62 yards and 1 touchdown was pedestrian stuff in Sunday Night's 26-14 home loss versus the 3-point underdog Baltimore Ravens. Mix in a little dose of shoddy defense - the Steelers are yielding 29 ppg so far and insiders say it's gonna get worse before it gets better - and you see where we are going!
In the home loss to the Ravens, Pittsburgh once again got off to a slooooow start by allowing a pair of touchdowns om the first quarter and this AFC North game could have been 21-3 in the first half had not Baltimore RV Alex Collins fumbled at the Steelers' one-yard line. Heck, we're seeing things here you'd never see with a Mike Tomlin-coached team such as major passer-to-target miscommunication between QB Ben Roethlisberger and the aforementioned Brown plus O-linemen were caught yelling at one another a couple of times when Ravens' blitzes resulted in sacks/QB takedowns.
As the late / great Yogi Berra used to be fond of saying, "It's getting late early out there" - the Steelers are one-quarter through this season and they've produced a 1-2-1 SU (straight-up) and 1-3 ATS (against the spread) campaign and, as fate would have it, here comes the underachieving one-win Atlanta Falcons into Heinz Field this Sunday followed by a road game against high-flying Cincinnati.
Say it ain't so: Say the Steelers won't be 1-4-1 SU while heading into their Week 7 bye.
Meanwhile, how about some shoddy spread starts for some other NFL sides ...
Those Falcons are 1-3 vig-wise through the first four weeks of the season;
The Buffalo Bills are 1-3 ATS after four weeks of play after getting blanked in Green Bay;
The Dallas Cowboys have failed to cover three-of-four following that thrilling 26-24 non-cover triumph over 2.5-point pup Detroit;
The Houston Texans are 1-3 spreadwise after four games; and so are the Los Angeles Chargers;
The New York Giants are 1-3 odds-wise this year after that 33-18 home loss against FG favorite New Orleans; the NY Jets are also 1-3 ATS and fading fast after that season-opening wipeout win in Detroit;
The defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have scratched out just one spread win in their first four games; ditto for the San Francisco 49ers;
And - last but not least - the Denver Broncos enter their MNF game against the Chiefs at 0-2-1 versus the vig through the first three games (see preview ahead).
Tonight, it's ...
KANSAS CITY (3-0) at DENVER (2-1) - 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
These two teams started off the year with new quarterbacks - but only one of them has 13 TDs / 0 INTs and is leading his team to nearly 40 ppg.
Yes, second-year slinger Patrick Mahomes and his rocket-launcher arm have been the buzz of the NFL so far as the Chiefs' star-of-the-present and star-of-the-future has been spectacular but you can't say the same for Broncos' QB Case Keenum (3 TDs / 5 INTs) but, truth be told, Denver's star WR Demaryius Thomas (just 16 catches for 144 yards and 1 TD) has dropped a bunch of passes and could be in real danger of losing his job or at least a whole bunch of snaps.
Note that Kansas City opened as a 5-point favorite but the price tag's come down to minus 3.5 points - tell us the Broncos can bottle up do-it-all WR/KR Tyreek Hill (8 catches of at least 20 yards) and we'll know whether the Broncos can spring the mild upset or not.
Spread Notes - Kansas City's an electric 11-2 ATS in divisional games since the start of the 2016 season; Denver is 5-10 spreadwise as underdogs the past two-plus season.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT
No doubt that Saturday night's come-from-behind 27-26 non-cover win at 3.5-point underdog Penn State was the biggest game of the year when you're checking out the College Football landscape ... hey, the Buckeyes would not have been eliminated from landing one of the four playoff spots at year's end but getting into the position of staking a claim might have been difficult if you assume Alabama, Georgia and Clemson are gonna be perfect in regular-season play. Go ahead and blame that fourth-down run call on Penn State's Tony Franklin - he's not one of our favorites but the entire loss doesn't fall on his shoulders - as too often the Nittany Lions' offense moved the ball but didn't come up with points. And what about the shoddy tackling attempts made on Ohio State wide out Binjimin Victor who pranced his way 47 yards on a TD that closed the gap to 26-21 and that was followed by a nifty 24-yard catch-and-score by Ohio State wide-out K.J. Hill with 2:03 left to make it 27-26.
Hey, Penn State's season ain't ruined either but something tells us that O-State win gets 'em a berth in the playoffs - and keep the Nittanies out of the fun-and-games ...
Finally, how about a shout-out to Hawaii for its 44-41 five-OT win at San Jose State. Don't look now but Hawaii is 5-1 SU and is headed to its best season since 2010 (see 10-4).