Steelers Are Big Road Favorite, Facing Much Easier Opponent Than Are Eagles

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The Steelers are big road favorites Sunday to retain a chance to become the NFL’s first undefeated regular-season team since 2007, while the Eagles are road underdogs as the league’s worst division-leader.

The 9-0 Steelers get to take on the 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars in what coach Mike Tomlin denies is a college-like “trap game.” Pittsburgh is favored by 10 on most of Pennsylvania’s legal online sportsbook sites.

The 3-5-1 Eagles could become the first division winner with a losing record since 2015, as they lead the rest of the NFC East but start a brutal stretch of schedule with the 6-3 Cleveland Browns. The Browns are favored by 3 to 3.5 points.

The NFL games complete a weekend of football action that includes a Saturday on which Pennsylvania’s three disappointing college teams all play at home, with each of them an underdog by about a field goal.

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Steelers, Jags consistent in opposite ways

The Steelers keep polishing off teams hoping to upset them, with the Cincinnati Bengals the latest victim in a 36-10 laugher last week.

Afterward, the Steelers remained behind only the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl odds. The best price on Pittsburgh is +600 from FanDuel and FOX Bet. FOX Bet also has the best payout, at +850, on a bet for Pittsburgh to run the table and go 16-0.

But first, Ben Roethlisberger & Co. have to avoid a letdown against the Jaguars, who will go with rookie QB Jake Luton in his third game due to injury to Gardner Minshew. Luton almost led Jacksonville to an upset of Green Bay last week, but that was against a lesser defense.

The formidable Steelers D leads the league with 36 sacks, anchored by linebacker T.J. Watt, who has overtaken the Rams’ Aaron Donald on most sites as the leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year (+240 at FanDuel, +260 at the sites using Kambi odds, among them DraftKings, Unibet, BetRivers, PlaySugarHouse, and Barstool). FOX Bet, however, still has Watt second at +275, behind Donald’s +250.

The Jags, meanwhile, have been giving up 30 points a game along the way to eight straight losses after defeating the Indianapolis Colts in their opener.

The result is the Steelers’ status as a 10-point favorite everywhere in Pennsylvania except BetAmerica, which as of Thursday morning posted -10.5, with the vig at +102. The best moneyline for a Steelers backer was the -435 available from DraftKings, BetRivers, and PlaySugarHouse.

Most sites put the points over/under at 47, with FOX Bet and BetAmerica stretching it to 47.5.

Eagles look to rebound vs. tougher opponent

The unpredictable Eagles season has been both maddening and disappointing, with last week’s 27-17 loss to the New York Giants a textbook example.

And yet, due to the woefulness of the rest of the division, including those Giants, the Eagles remain an odds-on favorite of anywhere from -150 at Caesars to -165 at FanDuel to win the NFL East.

And that’s despite playing their next five games against teams with a combined 32-13 record, starting in Cleveland. In gusty conditions there last week that stymied both offenses, the Browns defeated the Houston Texans, 10-7.

While Eagles QB Carson Wentz has cut back on costly turnovers of late, a porous, oft-injured offensive line has let him be sacked 35 times. The Browns’ Myles Garrett is the NFL’s sacks leader, which could make for a long day for Wentz.

The majority of sportsbooks make the Eagles 3-point underdogs with reduced juice at -104, but Philadelphia can be had with 3.5 at FOX Bet, Caesars, and BetAmerica.

The best moneyline price for an Eagles bettor is the +160 from FOX Bet and Caesars. The over/under is set at 47 by most, but FOX Bet and BetAmerica list 47.5.

Penn State hopes for a repeat of 2001

Starting the season with four straight losses is a rarity at Penn State. Before this year it happened just once, with a 2001 squad that rebounded to finish 5-6.

To chart a similar course starting at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, the Nittany Lions will have to beat a 2-2 Iowa team coming off two lopsided wins, including last week’s 35-7 defeat of Minnesota. Penn State had been a road favorite at Nebraska but lost 30-23.

The differing trends have the sportsbooks all making Penn State a 2.5-point underdog at Beaver Stadium. PSU fans expecting the start of a season turnaround and the year’s first win can get a moneyline as high as +115 from FOX Bet and Caesars.

FOX Bet and Caesars put the o/u at 47, while others have 47.5.

Pitt, Temple meet foes at their level

Pitt’s game vs. Georgia Tech last week was postponed by COVID-19 concerns with both programs. The 4-4 Panthers will hope to salvage their season by beating a Virginia Tech team that has the same record, though the Hokies are favored at Heinz Field by 3 points by FOX Bet and BetAmerica and 3.5 points by others.

Caesars offers the best moneyline price for a Pitt fan at +140. The points total is set at 54.5 most places, but FOX Bet and Caesars have 55.

Temple (1-5) has a foe down at its level in 1-6 East Carolina, but the visitors to Philadelphia are still 3.5-point favorites everywhere over the Owls. Both teams were trounced last week, Temple 38-13 by UCF and East Carolina 55-17 by Cincinnati.

Temple can be bet on the moneyline as high as +150 from FOX Bet. The over/under is 58 from Caesars, 57 from BetAmerica, and other sites list 57.5.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at gary@usbets.com.

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