The topsy-turvy NFL heads, believe it or not, into the final full month of the regular season.
Teams popular with Mountain State bettors — the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Football Team and Cleveland Browns — are also in the national spotlight.
The most compelling story has been the Steelers’ run for history. They are 10-0, look stronger every week and have a +400 chance to log an undefeated season, according to DraftKings. Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots have finished the regular season unbeaten. Miami capped its year with a Super Bowl title.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore have also been the center of another story, the juggle for the ages.
First off, here are the odds for NFL betting in WV for this week’s games:
The Steelers and Ravens will try again — take four — with a 3:40 p.m. game Wednesday at Heinz Field. The betting line is lopsided because the Ravens will miss several key players, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, wide receiver Willie Snead, and four offensive and defensive linemen.
More than 20 Ravens tested positive for COVID-19 and the team is responsible for creating the first NFL game to be postponed three times. This event was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, then Sunday, and Tuesday, before hopefully playing out Wednesday.
This will affect both teams next week, too.
The Steelers will play the Washington Football Team on Monday, not Sunday. And the Ravens will play the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, not Sunday.
As bad as this might be for players, the books and the bettors won’t mind. They observe unexpected sporting events on Wednesday and next Tuesday. The league also has a Monday Night Football doubleheader.
Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings Sportsbook, told PlayWV that some recent Tuesday college football games in the Mid-America Conference (MAC) received brisk betting support. It shows that an isolated event, even in a conference few people knew about, sparked wagering interest.
When the Ravens and Cowboys meet Tuesday, that will be another betting bonus. Look for all types of sportsbook props and betting specials for that game.
The 6-4 Ravens, meanwhile, are at a crossroads. They are not expected to defeat Pittsburgh, but must rally to topple Dallas in order to maintain playoff hopes. Barring a whopping upset against Pittsburgh, the Ravens will have lost four of their previous five games when they face the Cowboys.
For the Steelers, the multiple postponements mean two games in six days, and three in a week and a half. That’s the reality of 2020.
Niners adopt Arizona
The San Francisco 49ers will play two home games at the Arizona Cardinals’ State Farm Stadium in Glendale, AZ, after Santa Clara County in California, where the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium is located, issued a three-week ban on contact sports.
The Niners will host the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 7 and the Washington Football Team Dec. 13. The situation is loaded with irony.
That starts with the Bills, who return to the scene of the heist. Buffalo had an apparent victory over the Cardinals in their pocket a couple of weeks back, but quarterback Kyler Murray burned them on a final-play Hail Mary touchdown pass to win the game.
Now, instead of traveling to California to play the Niners, the Bills return to where they incurred the nightmare. Can they put that behind them, or are they jinxed in this stadium?
The second irony involves the Niners. They will play home games in the early part of December and then become an away team in the same place against the real occupants of the stadium, the Cardinals, one day after Christmas.
This may lessen the effect of the home-field disadvantage to them.
NFL needs better COVID-19 defense
NFL teams have a problem regarding routine protocol. The Ravens and Steelers created multi-day headlines.
And then came the Denver Broncos. They had not one, two, or three, but four quarterbacks disqualified from playing last Sunday against the New Orleans Saints because of lax enforcement of the rules. One player tested positive, others did not mask up and the Broncos had to play a practice-squad wide receiver, someone whom they had cut in September, at quarterback.
The results? The Broncos had more interceptions, two, than pass completions, one. That hadn’t been done in the league since 1998.
Quarterback Drew Lock publicly apologized afterward, hopefully setting a new standard of compliance.
Ironically, the books were right on it. They set the over-under line for 36.5 and the game ended at 34, in a 31-3 New Orleans win.
The Broncos get to “celebrate” the return of their quarterbacks as an underdog of roughly two touchdowns when they visit the Kansas City Chiefs.
Are the Cleveland Browns an elite team?
Cleveland has won three tough games in a row, besting the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars. None of those teams are likely to make the playoffs.
So how will the 8-3 Browns do against a likely playoff team, the Tennessee Titans, who are also 8-3?
We’ll see this weekend, when Cleveland enters as nearly a one-touchdown road underdog.
This is an interesting matchup of two powerful run games. The Browns have the tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the best duo in the NFL. But Tennessee has the beast, Derrick Henry, the league’s premier individual back.
It’s going to be a fun contest to watch, and bet.
Not only is a shootout expected, but DraftKings put the over-under at 54, the highest on the board.
Washington stepping up
How about this Football Team? At +3, it crushed the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, 41-16, to temporarily assume first place in the NFC Least. The Giants then took over by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 19-17 on Sunday. New York holds a tiebreaker over Washington on the strength of two head-to-head victories.
Granted, playing at Pittsburgh Monday night is an unenviable next task for Washington, but the team is coming on, led by its defense. It allowed only 25 points in the last two games, and the team has risen in the last month from 1-5 to 4-7. Remember, the division champion hosts a first-round playoff game.
Here are the best division odds for each team at WV sportsbook apps:
Teams facing must-wins
The Las Vegas Raiders, shellacked 43-6 by the Atlanta Falcons last week, lay about a touchdown against the winless New York Jets in a game they must have to stay above .500 and remain in the playoff chase.
The Miami Dolphins, who trail the Buffalo Bills by one game in the AFC East, take on the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals as a big chalk. Miami’s defense, combined with the heady leadership of Ryan Fitzpatrick, has guided the Dolphins to a 7-4 mark.
If Miami wins and San Francisco trips up Buffalo, Miami could find itself in a first-place tie. This is opportunity week.