Weird things happen in Week 1 of the NFL season — especially now that pretty much every elite player in the league skips the preseason — so you don’t want to read too much into any opening day results.
But by Week 2, trends are emerging, teams are starting to establish identities, and it’s fair to ascribe significance to what we’re seeing on the field.
That’s not such a good thing for the two Pennsylvania teams.
The Philadelphia Eagles saw their record squared at 1-1 after dropping a Sunday night nailbiter in Atlanta that immediately got labeled a “body bag game.” Phrased another way: If spending time in the injury tent is cool, consider the Eagles Miles Davis.
The news was even worse for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who dropped to 0-2 with a home loss to Seattle and lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a non-contact elbow injury that — gulp — we learned Monday morning has him headed for surgery and out for the season. No Bell. No Brown. No Ben. No wins yet. No hope?
That’s for bettors to decide. The Eagles and Steelers were both looking at shorter futures odds before Sunday, so a sharp who sees something other than the obvious might think now is the perfect time to back one of these teams. It depends how much you believe in Pittsburgh’s sophomore signal caller Mason Rudolph and how much longer Carson Wentz can expect to be throwing to practice-squad receivers.
Sell Steelers stock?
Steelers fans probably aren’t focused on the playoffs or the Super Bowl at the moment, but a bettor always surveys his options.
The lines certainly got a lot longer after Sunday’s defeat. Even before the extent of Big Ben’s injury was known, Pittsburgh dipped to +3300 to win the Super Bowl at Play SugarHouse, BetRivers, and Parx (all of which use Kambi’s odds), +4000 at FOX Bet, and +6000 at FanDuel Sportsbook (where they were +2900 after Week 1).
Now that we know Roethlisberger is done, even that 60/1 payout doesn’t feel like a bargain.
The Steelers’ AFC title odds slipped to +2000 at FanDuel and +1800 at all the other online sportsbooks, and after starting the season roughly even with the Cleveland Browns in terms of AFC North division odds, they’re now a distant third. First thing Monday morning, at FanDuel, it was the Baltimore Ravens at +125, the Browns at +200, and the Steelers at +230; after the surgery news, those numbers went to -125, +195, and +440, respectively.
There was no line yet anywhere, as of the publication of this article, on the Steelers’ Week 3 game at San Francisco.
This past Sunday afternoon, Pittsburgh fans’ trash was the sportsbooks’ treasure. FanDuel reported that 66% of the spread handle and 65% of the moneyline handle in the Seahawks game was on the Steelers, who came in as 4.5-point favorites.
While the possibility of Rudolph filling in admirably for Roethlisberger can’t be ignored (little was expected of Big Ben as a rookie in 2004, you may recall, and he somehow went 13-0 as a starter that year), it’s the Eagles who will surely be the PA team bettors are more comfortable backing the rest of the way.
Philly’s Super Bowl odds now sit at +1400 at the Kambi sites, +1500 at FOX Bet, and +1600 at FanDuel. FOX Bet has the best price on the Eagles to win the NFC: +750.
As for the NFC East, even though the Dallas Cowboys are a game ahead in the standings and not reeling from injuries, the teams are co-favorites. They’re both priced at -110 to win the division at FanDuel (the Giants and Redskins are just a wee bit back at +2400), while the Kambi sites are charging -112 juice on both teams.
With his ugly first half and his ballsy rallies in the second half, Wentz saw his MVP odds largely unaffected at the end of the day. He’s +1200 for the individual achievement at the Kambi sites, tied with Aaron Rodgers, behind only Patrick Mahomes (+250) and Tom Brady (+500).
As with the Steelers losing to Seattle, the sportsbooks cleaned up when the Falcons stopped the Eagles about three inches short on the final drive. At FanDuel, 64% of the spread handle and 84% of the ML handle were on the Eagles, who opened as a pick ’em and closed at -2. One Las Vegas sportsbook operator told ESPN.com that the Falcons’ dramatic win was the difference between a winning and losing overall day for them.
Next week, the Eagles hosting Detroit are at least a touchdown favorite over the 1-0-1 Lions. FanDuel and FOX Bet posted lines of -7.5, while SugarHouse and company set it at Eagles -7. Which side is the sharp side largely depends on whether injured receivers Alshon Jeffrey and/or DeSean Jackson will be available to catch Wentz’s passes.
Elsewhere around the league …
Roethlisberger wasn’t the only veteran QB to go down on Sunday, nor was he the only one to require surgery, but he is the only one whose season has been declared over. Drew Brees did to his thumb roughly what Big Ben did to his elbow, and he’ll be out about six weeks, swinging the Saints from a Super Bowl favorite to a fringe contender, odds-wise.
Saints go from 8-1 to win the Super Bowl at Caesars before the Rams game to 25-1. https://t.co/TwJ61cYSCd
— Ben Fawkes (@BFawkes22) September 16, 2019
How can a bettor take advantage? New Orleans remains the favorite at -155 at FanDuel to win the NFC South, but there might be some value in the Falcons at +240 or the longshot Tampa Bay Buccaneers at +800.
The biggest betting story on Sunday was the crazy-wide (but not nearly wide enough) spread in the Patriots-Dolphins game. At about 18- or 19-point underdogs, depending on where you looked and when, Miami was the biggest home ‘dog the NFL has seen in 12 seasons, and even at up to -3000 on the moneyline, New England backers were getting action down. At FanDuel, 55% of the moneyline handle was on the Pats (the moneyline bet count skewed toward the cheap Dolphins, at 78%) and 66% of the spread handle fell on the New England side.
With their 43-0 drubbing of the hapless ’Phins, they managed to cover the spread twice over.
This is a long price to lay, but at -1000 to win the AFC East at FanDuel, the Patriots are probably still a bargain. Sure, the Bills are also 2-0. But how much do wins over the Jets and Giants really count?
Photo by Dale Zanine / USA Today Sports