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September 25, 2018

Our Experts nailed Week 3's Monday Nighter. Big Ben and the Steelers dismantled bottom-ranked Bucs defense. JuJu has a big game. Fitzpatrick was feeling the pressure and threw 3 INT's.


There’s no doubt Fitzpatrick and the Bucs have been incredibly entertaining heading into week 3 MNF, but is this Fitzmagic going to be a consistent thing this year? Or is this an overblown narrative through just 2 games? We think they are somewhere in the middle, and will be susceptible to a loss in a comeback game for the Steelers.

PIT is simply the better team and we are getting some favorable + odds here due to some self-created drama from Bell holdout, Brown comments, a slow start, and current ‘Fitzmagic’ hype. While all the focus is on Tampa’s current number 1 rated offense, the fact that they have a current 31st ranked D is being overslept.

Despite an 0-1-1 start and Bell’s holdout, PIT themselves are a top-5 ranked offensethrough 2 weeks. They racked up 475 yards of offense last week, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 452 yards and three touchdowns in catch-up mode. Unfortunately, the Steelers defense just couldn't stop a Chiefs offense that's now scored 80 through its first two games.Two weeks ago Pittsburgh should have beaten the Browns. The Steelers led 7-0 early and 21-7 late, but they allowed Cleveland to score twice to force OT. Pittsburgh then had the first chance to win in extra time but missed a 42-yard field goal.

All the self-created melodrama surrounding Brown has overshadowed another significant development for Pittsburgh’soffense: the continued rise of second-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. The 21-year-old came on strong over the second half of his rookie season in 2017 and has picked up right where he left off. Smith-Schuster is tied with Brown for the team lead inreceptions (18) and his 240 yards receiving ranks fifth in the league. The Saints hung 40 points on TB D in Week 1 and the Nick Foles-led Eagles scored 21 in Week 2. Much of the damage, in each game, was done through the air. Drew Brees completed 37 of 45 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns. Foles went 35 of 48 for 334 yards and a score. Combined, that's a passer rating of 115.6, near worst in the NFL. The Bucs are also one of just three teams in the league that have yet to record an interception. (The others are the Cowboys and 49ers.) Obviously, all of this damage gives the Steelers offense an opportunity to rack up both yards and points. And perhaps no Steelers player has a better opportunity than Smith-Schuster. He lines up in the slot more often than not, and the Bucs (M.J. Stewart has been the biggest culprit) have been absolutely dreadful against players lined up inside. In two games, Tampa has yielded an incredible 43 completions for 511 yards and three touchdowns to players lined up in the slot. That's 11 more completions than any other team through the first two weeks of the year,and 143 more yards. Smith-Schuster, meanwhile, has 12 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown out of the slot thus far. Only Brandin Cooks and Adam Thielen had more slot yards through the first two weeks of the season. Expect JuJu to have a big game tonight.

Though slot men have inflicted the most dangerous wounds, it's not as though Tampa has done a good job against receivers at any other position either. Players like Antonio Brown, tight end Jesse James, and even running back James Connor should be able to find opportunities to make the Buccaneers pay through the air. Tampa has yielded 20 catches for 200 yards to tight ends thus far this season. James has eight catches for 198 yards and a score, and was excellent against a poor-against-tight-ends Chiefs defense just last week. The Bucs have also given up 16 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown to running backs, with Alvin Kamara in particular leading the way. Conner has five catches in each of Pittsburgh's games this season, totaling 105 yards through the air. Perimeter cornerback Carlton Davis has been hit up for 98 receiving yards and a touchdown already. The 144.8 passer rating he's allowed on throws in his direction is 13th worst among 158 defensive players who have been targeted on at least five passes. TB could also be without safety Chris Conte (knee) which would force rookie Jordan Whitehead into the lineup.

It is no secret what TB’s gameplan has been through 2 weeks. They have been airing it out downfield to targets Jackson and Evans at will. Fitzpatrick has 819 passing yards on just 48 completions (17 yards/completion). A signification reason for this has been limited pressure on Fitzpatrick who has been under pressure on only 13 of his 61 pass attempts. On his 48 unpressured attempts, he's completed 41 passes for 638 yards and six scores. These are ridiculous metrics, which are inevitably going to regress to the mean. After 2 weeks of pre-scouting PIT knows they need to make Fitzpatrick uncomfortable and the secondary needs to be sharp. If they can contain this trend TB will run out of options very quickly because the Bucs have had precisely zero success running the ball so far this season. Peyton Barber's 35 carries have gone for a laughable 91 yards, while Jacquizz Rodgers has gained 14 yards on his 7 attempts. Fitzpatrick has legitimately been their most successful runner, accumulating 35 rushing yards on 13 attempts.

TB has also found significant success at lengthening their drives on 3rd down. They have converted 52.5% of their 3rd downs, 2ndbest in the NFL. PIT D has allowed opponents to ju convert just 30.4% of 3rd down, 4th best in the league.

 TB simply doesn’t match up well vs. PIT and we really like the Steelers to slow down Fitzmagic and the Bucs’ electric start.