WV geography produces passionate backers of:
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Baltimore Ravens
- Cleveland Browns
- Washington Football Team
- Cincinnati Bengals
All have significant matchups this week. Let’s take a look.
NFL Week 5: The battle for first
The Steelers, 3-0 in the standings and 2-1 against the spread, are favored by about a touchdown. They have been offensively consistent, with point totals between 26 and 28 points, and have been good defensively. The over-under for this game is a modest 44 at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Key variable: The Steelers were unexpectedly idle last weekend. Members of the Tennessee Titans tested positive for COVID-19, postponing that game until Oct. 25. Are the Steelers rested or rusty? Opinions vary about a break in the schedule this early.
Other factors: Big Ben is back. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who missed major time last year, has tossed seven touchdowns versus only one interception upon his return. He has managed games well.
Big weapons for Big Ben include running back James Conner, emerging star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and speedy wide receiver James Washington.
Philadelphia counters with momentum, having stunned the nine-point favorite and defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers 25-20 Sunday night. The win was set up by the Eagles defense, which produced both a score and a turnover leading to a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The triumph vaulted the Eagles to the top of the NFC Least. They rule the roost at 1-2-1 but are beset with injuries.
Records aside, this is still a matchup of first-place teams.
Betting prop? The Eagles have yielded five touchdown passes to tight ends this year. Keep an eye on Pittsburgh’s Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald either for an anytime score or a score-and-win prop for the Steelers.
Ravens, Bengals clash
Are the Bengals underdog wonders? They are 4-0 against the spread and get nearly two touchdowns against the explosive Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defeated Washington 31-17 last week with a similar spread.
Is this line large enough for the Bengals to cover?
Baltimore has reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson, at quarterback and an excellent target in tight end Mark Andrews.
The Bengals are rising behind rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, who is making good decisions about where to throw the football. Key for Cincinnati is to stay close enough early to manage a conservative game plan. Either way, this 2-14 team from last year is moving in the right direction.
Have the Browns turned a corner?
It looked that way last week when they held off the stubborn Dallas Cowboys 49-38. Cleveland blew most of its 41-14 fourth-quarter lead before Odell Beckham Jr. cemented the road victory with a 50-yard touchdown run, his third of the game. It was the most important play of the season for Cleveland, which could not have afforded to blow this game.
Will Cleveland, 3-1 and 2-2 versus the spread, be able to take another step up? The Browns are underdogs in hosting a very good Indianapolis Colts defense. Cleveland has scored more than 30 points for three straight weeks for the first time in 50-some years.
To make it four, they will need Beckham and some backfield help. Star running back Nick Chubb was injured against the Cowboys and won’t play here. Kareem Hunt will take on a bigger load and will need someone to pick up Chubb’s contribution.
Line note: Cleveland money drove the midweek spread down to +2 at DraftKings, +1.5 at FanDuel. Watch that line seesaw. At 1-2 points, it’s enticing to Indianapolis bettors. If it hits +3, here comes the Cleveland betting cavalry.
The over-under of 47 suggests that the Colts, who scored 19 points last week in beating the Chicago Bears, will tally more against a suspect Browns defense.
Can Washington rebound?
The Washington Football Team, getting slightly more than a touchdown against the visiting Los Angeles Rams, has lost three straight by big margins after winning its opening game.
Washington played better than its 31-17 loss to the Ravens last week suggests. Terry McLaurin is emerging as a star to go with quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Washington needs a statement game to avoid going 1-4.
A look around the league
Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winners of three straight, visit Chicago to open the weekly slate Thursday night.
Tampa’s line of -4.5 reflects the expectation that Brady will continue doing well. Tampa Bay’s defense is not as good as Indy’s, and Chicago, stifled by the Colts last week, may do better.
The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are whopping favorites of nearly two touchdowns against the Las Vegas Raiders, who never play them well in Kansas City.
The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans will be an interesting battle once the line is set. The COVID problem that caused last week’s canceled game also has delayed the posting of a line. These are two excellent, undefeated teams.
The Sunday night game is the Seattle Seahawks giving roughly a touchdown to the Minnesota Vikings. That line has tipped 7.5 and 8 in some places.
The Monday night game is the New Orleans Saints giving more than a TD to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The highest over-under is Minnesota-Seattle at 57.5 at DraftKings and FanDuel.
Notable performances against the spread
Who’s hot: The Bengals, Seahawks and Green Bay Packers are 4-0. The Buffalo Bills are 3-0-1.
Who’s not: The New York Jets and Houston Texans have yet to cover the number this season. They are 0-4 on the moneyline and spread.
Who’s deceiving: The New York Giants are 0-4, but 2-2 against the spread. Their bettors can live with that. But the G-Men are getting no respect against the Dallas Cowboys. Early Wednesday, the line for this week’s game moved to Dallas -10 at DraftKings.
Different ways to play — opposite ends of the betting spectrum
Moneyline magic: A DraftKings user turned a dollar into a dream with a 12-leg parlay on Sunday. The user picked 12 games straight up, no spread, and collected $1,200 for a $1 bet. Upsets by the Browns, the Carolina Panthers (over the Arizona Cardinals), the Minnesota Vikings (over Houston), and the Eagles as a nine-point dog against the 49ers highlighted the ticket.
Here were the legs:
Seven figures to the opposite side, a DraftKings bettor wagered $1.4 million on the over 42 in the Bengals-Jacksonville Jaguars game. The bettor moved the original 49.5 total down 7.5 points and bet the over, paying a premium that drove the final profit down to $523,000. That was intelligence, guts and a massive bankroll combined into one play.
Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, says his book sees at least a couple bets north of $500,000 every week.