The Pittsburgh Steelers have not only become the darlings of West Virginia online sports betting fans, but of the entire NFL.
When football’s only undefeated team takes on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, both gamblers and fans have high expectations. Here are some Week 9 observations.
WV Sportsbooks feature a lopsided Pittsburgh-Dallas game
Pittsburgh was installed as an initial 13.5-point DraftKings WV Sportsbook favorite against the depleted Cowboys, who are down to fourth- and fifth-string quarterbacks. No team knows that dilemma better than the Steelers, who labored badly after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed most of last season with an injury. It was to their credit that they finished 8-8, and now they protect Big Ben like Fort Knox, designing a ground game and pass plays that enable him to release the ball quickly. They are enjoying a magical season.
Regarding this game:
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said quarterback Ben DiNucci was in over his head in the team’s 23-9 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The Cowboys are considering unknowns Cooper Rush and Garrett Gilbert to face the Steelers, who lead the league in sacks and hurries.
The over-under of 41 suggests the Steelers will gain a big early lead, Dallas won’t be able to score and Pittsburgh will empty its bench in the fourth quarter. If that happens, can bettors lay 13.5 points for the regulars playing only three quarters?
Pittsburgh is 6-1 against the spread, while Dallas is the only team without a spread cover, and a quarterback.
Pittsburgh’s league-leading total of sacks and pressures brings betting props into the spotlight. That includes defensive touchdowns and safeties as possibilities when they become posted. Dallas gave up a defensive score against the Eagles, and it paid nearly +450 across the major sportsbooks. It also determined the cover for the Eagles.
But the props occupy a small part of one’s budget for a good reason: They are a game outside the game.
DraftKings had JuJu Smith-Schuster at +225 as an anytime scorer against the Baltimore Ravens. He nearly took a pass in to the end zone in the second half but was stopped inside the 1. Bettors were inches from a nice payout, but did not cash.
This happens in nearly every game each week. Props are great when they come in, but are more of a dice roll than other bets.
Ravens’ offense raising questions in NFL Week 9
Just as you like to buy stocks on the dip, bettors found the Baltimore Ravens at a bettable -2.5 against the host Indianapolis Colts on Wednesday for Sunday’s game. That line had been stuck on -3 for a couple of days.
While this is a good time to take them, the Ravens have raised concerns among their followers. They are shrinking from the ranks of spectacular to above average. And there is a crack in the foundation. Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson threw a Pick 6 and a second interception that led to a touchdown, and he was unable to get the Ravens in the end zone late in their 28-24 setback to the Steelers last week.
The Ravens need to diversify their offense. They have a strong offensive line, but opponents are going to force Jackson to beat them with the deep ball. Top teams like the Tennessee Titans in last year’s playoffs, the Kansas City Chiefs, and now the Steelers in this regular season have contained Jackson. Contain him, and the Ravens will not win.
Tight end Mark Andrews remains a viable force as an anytime scorer. He was not targeted much last week. At some point, Jackson should go back to him.
Niners hampered by injuries
The last time the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Green Bay Packers, they jumped to a 27-0 lead and cruised to an NFC championship game victory.
So why when they meet Thursday night are the Niners rapidly descending underdogs.? They are 5.5-point dogs at DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbook, a jump of two points on Wednesday morning as bettors and oddsmakers absorbed the loss of star players Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle. How much can one team absorb? Bettors believe a significant dropoff has occurred at those positions.
Washington Football Team alive in the NFC Least
In the NFC East (or Least) the 2-5 Washington Football Team enters Sunday’s game against the New York Giants with a chance to close within half a game of first place.
After losing five straight games at one point? Yes, go figure.
Washington is favored in the neighborhood of a field goal across the sportsbooks and has found a spark with quarterback Kyle Allen. Washington demolished the Cowboys 25-3 before the bye, and, because the division is forgiving this year, will be right in the thick of it with a win here.
A loss drives Washington back to 1.5 games behind the pacesetting Philadelphia Eagles. Washington has covered two straight weeks and is playing its best football of the season now.
The beauty of this game? Win and the slate has essentially been wiped clean.
New York, 1-7, beat Washington 20-19 in Week 6 and is 5-3 against the spread this year.
In-game betting nuggets for WV sports betting fans
There are prop bets for scoring first (the Cowboys returned +500 at BetMGM WV Sportsbook by gaining a first-score field goal Sunday in a game they later lost), and nobody’s been better at this than the Detroit Lions. They have scored first in all of their games thus far this season. This is a prop that gamblers get a nice price for if they can combine scoring first with a method (field goal, touchdown, even a safety).
Can the Lions do it again this week versus the Minnesota Vikings? Part of this success is the random luck of getting the ball first. And part of it is the effectiveness of the offense. The Lions have been crisp on their first possessions of the game.
The contrarian instinct tells bettors that this streak will end sooner or later, but it is impressive anyway. Another way to play this bet is to take one scoring method for each team as the first tally of the game. It creates a smaller profit, but increases the chance to win.
How about the Green Bay Packers early in the game? Green Bay has scored on its opening drive in every game this year. Will it continue against the 49ers on Thursday?
The New Orleans Saints, who visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Drew Brees–Tom Brady matchup, have scored a TD when getting the ball with less than two minutes remaining in the first half in four straight games. That’s remarkable.
The Cincinnati Bengals continue rewarding the WV sports betting crowd. They are a league-leading 7-1 against the spread after throttling the Tennessee Titans 31-20 last week.
The Joe Burrow era is in full swing, as the NFL’s top draft pick guided the Bengals to their second win of the year. That matches their total from last season. The Bengals have been in most of the games they have played and continue getting generous point spreads.
This week they have a bye and then play the Steelers.
The Cleveland Browns, also enormously popular with Mountain State bettors, also are off. They host the Houston Texans next week.