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Morning Coffee: Biggest takeaway from the 2024 NFL schedule release

Mike Tomlin Mike Tomlin - The Canadian Press

The 2024 NFL schedule was released on Wednesday.

While we’ve known each team’s 2024 opponents for months since the end of the 2023 regular season, we didn’t know when each match-up would be played.

Now we do.

It’s an important factor when evaluating the overall strength of schedule for each team as a part of the handicapping process.

While there are apparent props and cons with each team’s schedules, there was one schedule that caught my attention last night based on how difficult it looks at first glance on paper.

If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, just find a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and get their thoughts on the schedule this morning. 

The Steelers will play one home game in the first month of the regular season, which includes back-to-back road games against the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos the first two weeks.

Meanwhile, the tail end of their schedule is loaded with all six games against AFC North opponents set to take place over the final eight weeks of the regular season.

From Week 11 through Week 18, Pittsburgh will play each of the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and the Cincinnati Bengals twice.

As if that wasn’t tough enough, the Steelers will visit the Philadelphia Eagles and host the Kansas City Chiefs in their two non-division games.

That stretch includes a game in Philadelphia in Week 15, followed by a trip to Baltimore on short rest in Week 16, then the Christmas Day game against the Chiefs on even shorter rest in Week 17.

Merry Christmas, Steelers fans.

There’s no doubt that Pittsburgh is a better team on paper than it was at the end of the 2023 season.

However, the Steelers were dealt a tough hand with a brutal schedule that could cap their overall potential competing in what projects to be one of the tougher divisions in football this season.

According to the team’s website, owner Art Rooney II was quoted as saying, “it’s probably not exactly how I would have drawn it up, but we’ve got to do the best we can.”

Ultimately, the schedule must factor into handicapping the potential of every single team this season.

Pittsburgh’s win total is currently set at over/under 7.5, and it’s heavily juiced to the over at -184.

The under 7.5 wins is +148.

Each of the Ravens (11.5), Bengals (10.5), and Browns (8.5) have higher win totals in the loaded AFC North.

Playing in a loaded division in which all four teams have playoff inspirations is a big enough ask.

One of the league’s toughest schedules on paper just made a challenging road to the playoffs that much more difficult for the Steelers.

This is the Morning Coffee for Thursday, May 16th, 2024.

Avalanche Avoid Elimination With Win In Dallas

Goaltending and depth were key factors when I picked the Dallas Stars to beat the Colorado Avalanche in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Both factors weighed heavily when I bet Dallas to win Game 5 on home ice last night. 

Apparently, I overlooked the most important factor.

The series-clinching win is always the most difficult.

Considering Colorado hadn’t led at any point throughout the first four games of the series, and the fact that they had just lost their top goal scorer in Valeri Nichushkin, the Stars were the obvious favourite to win Game 5.

According to the traders at FanDuel, 72 per cent of the stakes were on Dallas to win last night.

That number includes a wager by yours truly.

Unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate Cale Makar elevating his game once again as the Avalanche emptied the tank in their best performance since a comeback win in Game 1.

Makar scored twice and led the team with five shots on goal in the victory.

With Nichushkin out and MacKinnon held to two shots on goal, Makar was the difference maker late as Colorado rallied from down 1-0 and 2-1 to win the game 5-3.

While the Stars remain the favourite to win the series this morning at -365 odds, the Avalanche are -122 to force a Game 7 with a win on home ice on Friday night.

I’ll stick with my pick for Dallas to win the series.

However, as my colleague Luke Bellus highlighted to me on Wednesday morning, taking a flyer on Colorado at long odds to win the series and to win the West wasn’t the worst idea considering FanDuel’s prices and the talent on their roster.

Turning the page this morning, I’m looking at tonight’s all-Canadian series match-up between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks for my FanDuel Best Bet.

With the series tied 2-2, Edmonton is -152 to win Game 5 in Vancouver and -200 to win the series.

The Canucks are +126 to win Game 5 and +164 to advance.

I’m locking in Leon Draisaitl 3+ shots on goal parlayed with Zach Hyman 3+ shots on goal at -112 odds as my FanDuel Best Bet.

Draisaitl has registered at least three shots on goal in each of the first three games off the series, with four or more in three straight contests.

The intriguing part of this bet is that despite registering four shots on goal in Game 4, he could have easily had more than that.

Yes, I’m referring to his pass to Cody Ceci on a 2-on-1.

Hopefully, Draisaitl shows the type of aggression we have become accustomed to seeing from him in must-win situations for the Oilers in the playoffs.

All I need from him is three shots on goal tonight.

Meanwhile, Zach Hyman has registered three or more shots on goal in each of the first four games of the series, including eight shots on goal in Game 3.

I’ll lock in a two-leg Same Game Parlay with Draisaitl 3+ shots on goal and Hyman 3+ shots on goal at -112 as my FanDuel Best Bet for Thursday night’s NHL double-header.

Enjoy the games, everyone.

Yes, even you Steelers fans