No one envies coaches in professional sports. You’re hired to be fired no matter how many championships you win. Just ask Terry Francona.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got Belichick’s brain and Cowher’s chin. Ultimately, if the players aren’t on board, the organization is going to make the head coach walk the plank.
So how do the good ones keep egomaniac, millionaire athletes motivated? Where do they find bulletin board material for each game? And do they practice their shocked reaction after the Gatorade tub spills onto their shoulders, because that shit looks rehearsed.
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who needs to find ways to inspire his troops, but oddsmakers gave him a freebie this week when they made the Steelers 3.5-point underdogs at Houston.
The NFL likes to distance itself from the betting world, but the players and coaches know what this line means. Home field is worth three points in pro football, which means the Texans would be slight favorites against Pittsburgh on a neutral field.
That’s right, the Texans. A team that’s never had a winning season and coughed up a 9-point, fourth-quarter lead against the Saints last week is giving more than a field goal to the defending AFC champions.
Look, I get it that bettors are hesitant to back the Yellow and Black. They got their asses handed to them by the Ravens and came nowhere close to covering against the Colts. But this is the Steelers were talking about - the same club that’s won 67 percent of its regular season and playoff games under Tomlin and is 104-84-5 against the spread since 2000.
Pittsburgh is a proven commodity and Houston is still a volatile stock. Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5) at Houston Texans
Did you know the Steelers have 10 turnovers and one takeaway? Yeah, that’s a big part of the reason Pittsburgh’s looked so awful this season. Expect Ben Roethlisberger, who’s responsible for eight of those TOs, to take better care of the ball and the Steelers’ defense harass Matt Schaub and Co. into making some costly mistakes.
SteelersDetroit Lions (+2.5) at Dallas Cowboys
Remember how we were all worried for Tony Romo’s insides against the Redskins last week? Well, to paraphrase Hulk Hogan, whatcha gonna do when Ndamukong Suh runs wild on you?
I think Tony Ro-Ro is in big trouble even if he’s been saying his prayers and taking his vitamins.
LionsCarolina Panthers (+6.5) at Chicago Bears
The Bears will be the toughest test yet for super rookie Cam Newton. Chicago’s offense is uglier than Rosie O’Donnell but its defense is still as good or better than anybody else in the league.
Of course, nobody knows Chicago’s defense better than Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. The former Bears defensive coordinator knows how best to attack Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 scheme.
Denver Broncos (+12.5) at Green Bay Packers
It would have been nice to grab Denver at +13 or 13.5 earlier in the week but this is still a generous spread.
The Packers are coasting right now. There’s a large gulf in talent between them and their opponents every time they take the field, but they don’t step on the jugular like the Patriots. Green Bay is 0-3 ATS in its last three games as a double-digit favorite.
Denver loses this game but keeps it respectable.
Last week: 2-1
Season record: 5-4
If you're looking for another way to bash Ashton's picks, you can follow him on Twitter @AshtonGrewal.