You May Bet In May On Football Games In September, And You May Gain An Edge

Eagles, Penn State, and Pitt, but not Steelers, are favored in their season openers
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If it’s almost Memorial Day, that must mean it’s time to begin betting on football games.

It’s bound to be true for some bettors, as pigskin prognosticating represents the favorite form of wagering. Otherwise, Pennsylvania’s online sportsbooks wouldn’t be posting lines more than three months in advance for the opening games of the Eagles, Steelers, Penn State, and Pitt.

A lot can happen over the summer affecting the outlook of all four of those teams by the time they start in September, of course. That can work either to the benefit or detriment of bettors willing to invest in their hunches so far in advance.

A Steelers backer willing now to tie up some funds for a few months might find himself quietly smiling on Sept. 11 if Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow slips on some soap in the shower the day before and has to miss the game, meaning Pittsburgh is no longer a touchdown underdog.

Such misfortune can also befall key players for any of the Pennsylvania teams, but hey, that’s why they call it gambling. It’s just that placing a wager this far out is even more of a gamble than usual. For those willing to take that chance, here’s what the early odds look like:

Eagles start season as road favorite

The Eagles travel to Detroit Sept. 11 as favorites against the long hapless but increasingly hopeful Lions.

Philadelphia, which has gained more respect from oddsmakers as a result of a strong draft combined with a trade for star receiver A.J. Brown, is anywhere from a 3.5-point to 4.5-point favorite in the game.

The best site currently for betting on the Eagles in the game is BetMGM, which has them -3.5 with reduced vig at -105. Philadelphia made the playoffs last year and the Lions won just three games while finishing last in the NFC North for the fourth straight season.

BetMGM and DraftKings, which lists the Eagles -4, both have the most favorable moneyline price for a Philly bettor at -190.

In addition to their lines for opening games, the sportsbooks also have a variety of futures odds options for those willing to tie up their betting funds even longer — into January rather than September.

The Eagles’ Super Bowl odds had already shrunk to 35/1 after their favorable draft/trade reviews in April, and now they’ve improved more. The best return currently is the 30/1 offered by FOX Bet and PointsBet.

FanDuel, meanwhile, offers the best return on an NFC East division title at +210, with all of the sites making the Dallas Cowboys the favorite.

Steelers’ bleaker outlook reflected in odds

Everyone is more pessimistic about the Steelers than they have been in many years — largely due to their no longer having a certain future Hall of Famer at quarterback — and that starts with the line for the opening game against last year’s AFC champions.

Someone believing Pittsburgh can at least be competitive against Cincinnati with either Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, or Kenny Pickett at quarterback would do best getting +6.5 with reduced vig of -109 from the state’s many Kambi sites, among them BetRivers, Unibet, and TwinSpires. That +6.5 is offered with standard juice from most sites.

BetMGM, meanwhile, is offering the best moneyline return on the Steelers at +225.

For season-long futures odds, it has been a long time since Pittsburgh has been held in such low regard as what shows up for 2022.

For the Super Bowl, PointsBet is offering the longest odds, at 90/1. DraftKings and Betway list the Steelers at 11/1 to win the AFC North, which is considerably worse (but better for bettors) than the 8/1 they had posted before the draft last month.

Penn State favored over Purdue

Odds for opening college games are not as widely available months in advance as for NFL contests, but multiple sites do offer them — particularly for the more prominent games and programs. And in a twist this year, Pennsylvania’s two biggest programs both open on Sept. 1, a Thursday, instead of on a Saturday afternoon.

Penn State plays at Purdue in a Big Ten cross-division matchup of two teams that did not meet in 2021.

While the Boilermakers finished with the better record last year (9-4, 6-3 Big Ten), the Nittany Lions (7-6, 4-5) are favored by about a field goal by those sportsbooks already listing odds.

The best option for a bet on the Nittany Lions would be with DraftKings or Betway, which use the same odds supplier and list Penn State -3 at even money (+100).

Penn State can be bet at 80/1 to win the national championship at FanDuel or BetMGM, and at 17/1 to win the Big Ten using PointsBet.

Backyard Brawl draws varied spreads

Pitt vs. West Virginia on Sept. 1 is intriguing not just because it marks the return of the storied Backyard Brawl after a decade’s hiatus, but because of divergent point spreads that could tempt a bettor at this stage to try to middle the game.

Pitt had its best season in decades in 2021, while West Virginia has taken a step backward, which has DraftKings and Betway listing Pitt as a -7 favorite for its home game at even money. FanDuel, meanwhile, has the Panthers as a much smaller favorite at -4.5, with -115 juice. BetRivers and other Kambi sites, at -6.5, lean closer to the DraftKings spread.

Is it worth it, this far in advance, to take the notion of gambling out of the picture by betting the Mountaineers with DraftKings and the Panthers with FanDuel? A sharp might think so.

There’s also some uncommonly wide disparity on Pitt’s season-long futures odds.

A bettor on their longshot chances of a national title could get 300/1 from FanDuel, as opposed to just 80/1 from BetMGM. And to repeat as ACC champion, Pitt is listed at 14/1 from FanDuel but 6/1 from PointsBet.

Photo: Shutterstock

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