Their selections in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft should only bolster hopes for the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers — and man, do they need the help in the eyes of oddsmakers.
Unlike some states, Pennsylvania does not permit its regulated sportsbooks to offer betting on draft selections, as its legal framework confines sports wagering to on-field events. Futures bets are allowed months in advance on team performance, however, and the odds appear stacked against the Eagles and Steelers at this point for 2022.
Both teams made the playoffs last season, only to get bounced in lopsided wild card games in the first round. Neither is favored to get that far this year. (DraftKings has the Eagles at +110 to make the playoffs and the Steelers at +275.)
The Eagles are a distant second behind the Dallas Cowboys in odds to win the NFC East, while the Steelers — as a sign of either just how far they’ve fallen or how good their three division rivals have gotten — are deemed far behind all of the competition in the AFC North.
Two days before Philadelphia makes two first-round picks, which both come a little ahead of the Steelers’ choice at No. 20 overall, it’s time to take stock of the forecast for Pennsylvania’s two NFL teams.
Eagles look like .500 team to books
The Eagles’ 9-8 record and playoff appearance last season represented a notable and unexpected improvement, but it was also an uneven season — pretty much symbolized by the uneven play of quarterback Jalen Hurts — that leaves questions about further progress in 2022.
The sportsbooks that are offering season win over/under totals set that number at 8.5 for the Eagles, which more or less calls them a .500 team (even if you can’t finish a 17-game season at .500, unless you have a tie). To place an over-8.5 bet, FOX Bet is the best choice currently in Pennsylvania, in that it’s offering even money (+100) to go that way, while charging under bettors extra on the vig at -120. DraftKings and Betway set the 8.5 with the same price in both directions at -110.
The Eagles’ Super Bowl odds range from 40/1 to 50/1, with the latter higher payback available from Caesars, FOX Bet, Betfred, and PointsBet PA. Look to the same group of books for the best NFC title price as well, at 25/1.
The NFC East has been viewed as comparatively weak among divisions for several years, and that is expected to be no different in 2022. This perceived-as-average Eagles team is deemed second in the division — with odds to win it as long as +333 from FOX Bet — while the Cowboys are an odds-on favorite at all of the sites, ranging from -115 (FanDuel, DraftKings) to -138 (FOX Bet).
Thanks to a prior trade, the Eagles get two picks in the middle of Thursday’s first round at No. 15 and No. 18. In mock drafts and other analysis, there has been a lot of talk about the team’s needs at wide receiver, defensive secondary, and defensive line and pass rush.
Among the college players whose names have been bandied about as their potential picks — and these could come with either selection — are Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams, Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie, Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis, and Purdue edge rusher George Karlaftis.
An Eagles fan interested in betting on the draft has the option of crossing the state line into New Jersey to do so. A site like FOX Bet, for example, offers odds on which position Philadelphia will address with its first pick, with the shortest odds on wide receiver (+165) and defensive back (+250). Or a bet could be made that the choice will be an offensive player (+110) or defensive (-143).
A lot of QB talk in Pittsburgh these days
At the close of last season, the Steelers lost not just a one-sided playoff game to the Kansas City Chiefs, but their 18-year stud quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, whose planned retirement was hardly a secret by that point.
That has led to nearly all of the speculation focusing on the quarterback position in the Steelers’ own draft, even after they signed free agent castoff Mitch Trubisky as the new season’s apparent starter over returning backup Mason Rudolph. (Trubisky has +1400 Comeback Player of the Year odds from BetMGM, in case you’re a Mitch believer.)
No matter who’s behind center, the oddsmakers’ predictions for the Steelers are a lot dimmer than has been the case in a long time. The team has never finished below .500 in Mike Tomlin’s lengthy coaching career, but the sportsbooks all sense that’s about to change by setting 7.5 as the Steeler’s over/under on wins. Someone betting the over would be best off at FOX Bet, at a reduced price of -105.
In the AFC North, DraftKings gives the Steelers the best chance of winning, and that’s at only +800. Someone with faith in Pittsburgh could get +1000 instead from PointsBet or one of the many Kambi-backed sites (BetRivers, Unibet, TwinSpires, Barstool, Parx, PlaySugarHouse).
The Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens are all closely bunched in odds at the top of the division, with most sites giving the Browns a small edge. The Kambi sites, interestingly, align all three evenly at +200 to lead the North.
Pittsburgh is thus a longshot everywhere, naturally, to win the Super Bowl, with FanDuel making them longest of all at 80/1. It also has them with longest odds to win the AFC, at 44/1
Quarterback was hardly the Steelers’ only perceived position need entering the offseason, but they made some strong signings in free agency to replenish the offensive line and bolster the secondary. There is still some thought that at No. 20, they might go for the best available wide receiver, but mock drafts generally keep focusing on the symmetry of Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett continuing his pro career in the same Heinz Field where he played college ball, or Liberty QB Malik Willis being taken if he is somehow still available.
FOX Bet in New Jersey lists quarterback at -118 as the most likely position filled by Pittsburgh with Thursday’s pick, followed by offensive line at +400 and wide receiver at +600. It thus places odds of an offensive pick as a strong favorite at -200, with defense at +150.
Photo: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY