Most 11-1 teams do not find themselves in the position of being underdogs, but that’s where the Steelers stand for a marquee Sunday night matchup vs. the Buffalo Bills after losing their first game of the season.
Pittsburgh started the week as a small favorite among Pennsylvania’s online sportsbooks, but that line quickly flipped on its head so that the Bills are now favored by 1 to 2 points while playing at home.
That could be a result of how poorly the Steelers’ offense has looked in their past two games, while their stellar defense has game by game become more riddled by injury.
Meanwhile, the Eagles’ season has slipped away from them with a succession of losses and inept offensive performances of their own, to the point they are starting rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts Sunday vs. the New Orleans Saints. Most sites have them a 7-point home underdog.
Doubts surround the AFC leader
The Steelers remain the No. 1 seed in the AFC by virtue of a tie-breaker over the Kansas City Chiefs, also 11-1, but few fans in Pittsburgh this week are brimming with confidence. The Chiefs are a much bigger Super Bowl favorite, listed at +220 at FanDuel compared to Pittsburgh’s +750.
Pittsburgh was upset at home Monday, 23-17, by the Washington Football Team, and that came after squeaking by a COVID-wracked Baltimore Ravens squad the week before.
The Steelers will get James Conner back Sunday from his own COVID protocol to try to boost a running game that gained just 21 yards on 14 attempts vs. Washington.
But, alternatively, they’ll be missing three of their linebackers who started the season, plus Robert Spillane, who filled in nicely for one of them. No. 1 cornerback Joe Hayden is doubtful also after sustaining a concussion.
At some point, all those absences are meaningful even to a defense that leads the league in points allowed, takeaways, and sacks, especially when facing a threat such as Josh Allen.
The Bills QB, currently third in league MVP odds behind Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, has passed for over 300 yards in six games to combine with his dangerous running ability. His team is 9-3 and leads the AFC East after beating the San Francisco 49ers 34-24 Monday night.
The Steelers could be bet as 2-point underdogs Friday morning at Caesars or the six Pennsylvania sites using Kambi odds (DraftKings, BetRivers, PlaySugarHouse, Unibet, Barstool, Parx). The Kambi sites had increased vig of -113, however, making Caesars the better option.
The best moneyline option for a Steelers bettor was the +110 offered by both Caesars and BetAmerica.
The points total over/under rose during the week to reach 48 at most of the sportsbooks, with FOX Bet making it 47.5.
Hurts faces tough challenge in first start
Philadelphia’s season has gone off the rails to the point its odds are just 14/1 now to win the NFC East after being the favorite in that weak division for much of the year. The New York Giants, tied with Washington at 5-7, are now the favorite, with FanDuel making them -145 to finish on top (New York has a tiebreaker advantage over Washington).
A 30-16 loss to Green Bay Sunday was the Eagles’ fourth straight defeat, and now they face a 10-2 Saints team that hasn’t lost since Week 3, even while missing injured Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees.
While Taysom Hill has three wins in as many starts in place of Brees, the Eagles will look to find if Hurts can do anything similar for them in place of Carson Wentz’s disappointing performance.
The timing of testing the second-round pick from Oklahoma might have been better, however. The Saints have given up an average of 8.8 points over their last five games, and their defense ranks first in the NFL in yards allowed. The Eagles, meanwhile, haven’t surpassed 17 points in their last four games.
Add it all up, and it might be a surprise, if anything, that the Eagles are just a 7-point underdog at nearly all of the betting sites, and Caesars has them even more competitive, at 6.5.
The best moneyline price for an Eagles backer Friday morning was the +265 offered by FanDuel.
The over/under on the game was a modest 43 across the board, given the rookie QB and the Saints’ defensive prowess.