NFL coaches are known for not caring all that much about the outcome of the preseason games as they focus on evaluating individual talent. But for sports bettors, it’s a different story.
In Philadelphia last week, those backing the Eagles as a slight favorite over the New York Jets were ready to count their money until a touchdown with 16 seconds left gave the Jets a 24-21 victory. In Pittsburgh, meanwhile, those who bet on the favored Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks were looking at a loss of money – or, at best, a push if they were giving 3 points instead of 3.5 – in a tie game as the home team moved into field goal territory in the final seconds. A TD pass from rookie QB Kenny Pickett with three seconds left, however, turned the game into a 32-25 Steelers win.
Those preseason openers gave the thrill of victory to Steelers bettors and agony of defeat to Eagles supporters who may have been making their first NFL bets since the Super Bowl. And now, of course, they get to live the highs and lows all over again this weekend, as they might every week for the next five months.
Pittsburgh travels to Jacksonville as a small underdog — about a field goal — Saturday night against the Jaguars, while Philadelphia is favored by a similar amount in visiting the suddenly Deshaun-less Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon.
Some figure Jags could use a win
Jacksonville got an early start to the preseason by playing in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, two weeks ago, but they lost both that exhibition opener to the Las Vegas Raiders, 27-11, and last week’s game against the Browns, 24-13. The Jags, in fact, have won only one of their last nine preseason games, on top of going 3-14 in the regular season last year.
Yet most of the Pennsylvania online sportsbooks — including FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM — have them as a 3-point favorite over the Steelers Saturday. That could be because Jacksonville coach Doug Pederson — yes, Eagles fans, he’s trying to resurrect a franchise and his own career in Florida now — has made clear he will give serious playing time to key starters such as quarterback Trevor Lawrence and halfback Travis Etienne.
#Jaguars HC Doug Pederson says he does want to see his starters go a little longer in this third preseason game coming up against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) August 15, 2022
The Steelers are expected, like last week, to use their full triumvirate of quarterbacks competing to replace Ben Roethlisberger, but the big news out of training camp this week was that fan favorite Pickett will move up to the second slot behind Mitch Trubisky. The rookie, who completed 13 of 15 passes last week, will likely enter the game in the second quarter and play alongside some of the offensive starters instead of waiting until the second half.
It’s uncertain, however, whether other key members of the offense who missed the Seattle game while nursing camp-sustained injuries — particularly running back Najee Harris and top wideout Diontae Johnson — will see any action against the Jaguars.
Those wanting to bet the Steelers on the moneyline would be best off using the +140 price offered by FanDuel. The over/under is generally 41.5, although BetMGM had it up to 42 Friday morning.
Eagles face Brissett, not Watson
In Cleveland, the Eagles defense can expect to see a fair amount of Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and none of Deshaun Watson, who accepted an 11-game suspension tied to sexual assault allegations that was announced Thursday. The suspension is not yet officially in effect, but Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Watson won’t be seeing any more action in preseason contests.
Most of the sportsbooks have the Eagles, who have been engaged in joint practices with the Browns this week, as 3-point favorites for a game that oddly has a traditional regular-season start time of 1 p.m. Sunday. A Philly bettor could also consider going to one of the sites using Kambi odds, such as BetRivers or Barstool, and giving 2.5 points at a higher vig of -122.
Jalen Hurts played extremely well in the first quarter against the Jets, completing all six of his passes for 80 yards and leading a touchdown drive. On Sunday, however, coach Nick Sirianni may be more focused on figuring out whether Reid Sinnett or Carson Strong is his better option as a third QB behind backup Gardner Minshew. Sinnett saw all of the late-game action instead of Strong last week.
My guess is that Nick wanted to give Reid SInnett a full half. Let him settle in and get into a rhythm and not worry about coming out after a quarter. I wouldn't be surprised if he does the same thing with Carson Sunday in Cleveland. https://t.co/b9HpgckCMf
— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) August 15, 2022
Those liking Philadelphia to win, whoever’s behind center, can use the -145 from DraftKings as their best moneyline option. The game is predicted to be a lower-scoring affair than last week, with all of the major books listing the over/under at 35.5.
Photo: Reinhold Malay/USA TODAY