The Dallas Cowboys apparently won’t start their rookie Pittsburgh-bred quarterback, they have a Pittsburgh-born coach who’s struggling, and the oddsmakers deem them likely to be thumped Sunday one way or another by an undefeated Pittsburgh football team.
Pennsylvania’s 10 online sportsbooks have made the Steelers (7-0) anywhere from 13.5-to-14-point favorites while visiting Dallas to take on the Cowboys (2-6). It’s a 4:25 p.m. matchup that lacks the luster of the usual quadrennial meeting between two proud franchises that have met in three Super Bowls.
The Eagles have their bye this week, but the Steelers could do them a favor by becoming the second Pennsylvania team in a row to dispatch the Cowboys. Philadelphia, now in command of the race in the weak NFC East, beat Dallas at Lincoln Financial Field last week, 23-9.
In NCAA play on Saturday, meanwhile, Penn State is a huge favorite over Maryland, Temple is a big underdog against SMU, and Pitt is a slight road ‘dog vs. Florida State.
A big step down in competition
As the NFL’s lone remaining undefeated team, the Steelers have won three straight games against strong teams (Cleveland, Tennessee, Baltimore) and now trail only Kansas City in Super Bowl odds. They are deemed likely to feast Sunday on a far weaker opponent than those recent ones.
Caesars and BetAmerica made Pittsburgh a 14-point favorite as of Thursday morning, while FanDuel, FOX Bet, and the six sites using Kambi odds (DraftKings, Unibet, BetRivers, PlaySugarHouse, Barstool, Parx) all had the game at 13.5.
Steelers backers would have to risk a lot to win a little on the moneyline, which ran as high as -1000 from FOX Bet and Caesars. DraftKings offered better value for a Pittsburgh bet, at -770.
The points total over/under was a modest 41.5 from all sites except Caesars and BetAmerica, which posted 42. That has something to do with the Cowboys’ wretched quarterback situation.
Unfortunate revolving door at QB
First, Dak Prescott was lost for the season from a fractured ankle. Then, after backup Andy Dalton was sidelined for a game and a half by a concussion, he was ruled out this week by a positive COVID-19 test.
Pittsburgh native Ben DiNucci got his first NFL start against the Eagles Sunday but looked every bit as inexperienced as he is. This week’s reports out of Dallas are that coach Mike McCarthy will turn to either of two in-season signees — Garrett Gilbert or Cooper Rush — who themselves have spent their recent time on practice squads. Either would be making his first NFL start also.
The Steelers’ dominant defense, even while itself nicked up due to recent injuries, could be forgiven for smiling. Among categories in which it leads is its average of 4.3 sacks per game, spearheaded by Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt (+300 at DraftKings, +550 at FOX Bet).
The Cowboys, meanwhile, have allowed more points than any other team in the NFL.
One other disparity between the teams: The Steelers are 6-1 against the spread this year and the Cowboys 0-8.
Put all that together, and it could explain why Rush Street Interactive, which runs the BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse sites, offered in a report Thursday morning, “Pittsburgh is backed by 99% of the ML handle and 96% of the spread handle, the strongest early backing of any week 9 team.”
PSU hopes to start its turnaround
Pennsylvania’s college football teams have been universally unimpressive this year, and at least one of them is favored to change that Saturday.
Penn State is favored by 24.5 to 25.5 points in hosting Maryland at 3:30. The Nittany Lions have opened their late-starting season with two losses, including last week’s 38-25 thumping by Ohio State. Maryland upset Minnesota 45-44 after a 43-3 loss to Northwestern.
Anyone betting Penn State on the moneyline would find minimal profit, as it’s as high as -3335 from the Kambi-backed sites. BetAmerica has the best price at -1800. The over/under is 62.5 or 63.
Pitt, now 3-4 after four straight losses and a bye week, is an underdog ranging from 1.5 points (FanDuel, FOX Bet) to 2.5 points (Kambi sites, BetAmerica) at Florida State. The Seminoles, 2-4, are coming off a bye week themselves.
The best profit offered on the moneyline for a Pitt bettor is the +110 from the Kambi sites and Caesars. Everyone has the over/under at 50 except FanDuel, at 49.5.
Temple (1-3) was pounded by Tulane, 38-3, and now it gets to host an SMU team (6-1) that is ranked No. 18 in the country. That has the sites making Temple an underdog ranging from 17.5 points (FanDuel, Caesars, BetAmerica) to 18.5 (Kambi sites).
An upset by the Owls would net a moneyline bettor as much as +600 (Caesars). The over/under is as low as 61.5 points from FanDuel and the Kambi sites, while Caesars goes as high as 62.5.