The Steelers and Eagles are hosting the two teams trailing Pittsburgh in the AFC North race on Sunday, and the Steelers are favored while the Eagles are not.
That makes a lot of sense, considering the Steelers made a pretty convincing argument at Heinz Field last weekend that they are better than the Eagles. In addition, though the Steelers’ guests, the Cleveland Browns, are off to their best start since the first Clinton administration, they are not deemed the caliber of the Baltimore Ravens.
So as of Thursday afternoon, Pittsburgh was a 3-point favorite over Cleveland at most of Pennsylvania’s 10 online sportsbooks, while the sites all agreed that the Eagles deserved to be 7.5-point underdogs to Lamar Jackson & Co.
Despite the Pennsylvania teams’ vastly contrasting records — 4-0 for Pittsburgh and 1-3-1 for Philadelphia — they’re both in the thick of divisional races where the games have large significance regardless of the odds.
Browns even worse at Heinz Field than elsewhere
The Steelers have not started a season 4-0 since their Super Bowl dynasty era of the 1970s, so this 2020 version can feel just as proud of its start as can the rival Browns. It’s just that the Browns’ success is so much less customary.
Cleveland has had just two winning seasons in the new millennium, and the Browns have dropped their last 16 games at Heinz Field. They’ve never beaten Ben Roethlisberger there.
And yet, somebody among the sportsbooks and betting public is liking the Browns after they soundly defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 32-23, on Sunday. The betting line has shifted in their direction over the past few days.
On Monday, the Steelers were listed as a 4.5-point favorite by FanDuel and 4-point favorite by DraftKings and other Kambi-powered sites. Now those all favor the Steelers by just 3. The one outlier, with a 3.5-point spread, is FOX Bet.
The over/under on the game is set at 51 everywhere.
One aspect of betting-related intrigue Sunday is that two leading contenders for Defensive Player of the Year will be on the field, on opposite sides. Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, a few weeks ago the favorite for the award, is now +550 on DraftKings, behind Browns lineman Myles Garrett (+400) and the favorite, Rams lineman Aaron Donald (+300). Garrett will be a major villain to the 5,000 or so fans allowed into Heinz Field, all of whom presumably remember his wicked, helmet-wielding encounter with fill-in Steelers QB Mason Rudolph last year.
Eagles hope Ravens overlook them
While the Eagles have done nothing to impress anyone this year, and they have the record to back it up, they’re in second place in the NFC East, only a half-game behind a Cowboys squad that has lost starting quarterback Dak Prescott for the season.
So it would be a great time to turn things around, if not for the fact that they face a 4-1 Ravens team that remains one of the Super Bowl favorites, with its only loss coming to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The good news for the Eagles is Carson Wentz now appears to have a secret wide receiver weapon — well, maybe no longer secret — in unheralded Travis Fulgham, who caught 10 passes for 152 yards and a TD in the 38-29 loss to the Steelers.
The Ravens, meanwhile, had an easy time last week defeating the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-3.
Eagles fans can hope the Ravens will come in a little overconfident and Philadelphia emerges with its second win of the season, while the team’s betting backers can hope the Eagles hang within a touchdown and beat that 7.5-point spread. The Eagles almost beat that same point spread last Sunday, after all, and that was on the road.
The over/under is set at 47.5 by most of the books, and 48 by FanDuel and Caesars.
Enticements from the sportsbooks continue
As with every week, the sportsbooks have promotions encouraging NFL betting, and there will likely be more by Sunday than what is already shown on their sites. But as of now, bettors can consider the following:
FanDuel — The state’s most popular betting site is repeating an attractive “same game parlay”: Bet three or more legs in a parlay on any NFL game, and if you lose, $10 is returned in site credit. As long as you don’t risk more than $10, there seems little reason not to try it in hopes of a substantial profit.
DraftKings — The No. 2 site in betting handle is promoting a “boosted” bet involving the Pennsylvania teams on opposite sides: If you succeed in a bet on the Steelers, Ravens, and Colts (favored by 7.5 over the Bengals) all to win, you’re rewarded at +200 (boosted from +155 as of our most recent calculation).
FOX Bet — In a “super boost,” you can bet at even-money odds that Roethlisberger and Wentz will both throw at least one TD pass. The catch: The maximum wager is $10. FOX Bet is also boosting to +250 (from +200) the odds of the Steelers winning the AFC North, for a $20 wager.
Pitt a road dog, Temple a home favorite
A week before the start of Penn State’s football season, Pitt has its biggest game of the year thus far.
After two disappointing one-point losses to Boston College last week and North Carolina State the week before, the Panthers travel as underdogs to play the University of Miami (Fla.).
There was an unusually wide range of betting lines for the game as of Thursday afternoon. FOX Bet had the Panthers +11.5, which was close to the opening line, while other sites moved the game to 13.5 during the week, and BetAmerica even listed +14.
Most sites have the total at 47.5, with Caesars at 48.
Temple, after losing its opener to Navy, 31-29, is a big favorite over visiting South Florida, which has lost its last three games by a combined score of 124-31.
Most sites listed the Owls as an 11-point favorite Thursday afternoon, while FanDuel and FOX Bet had them at 10.5. The over/under was set at 53.5 at most sites, though Caesars was using 54.5.
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