Welcome to the Pennsylvania Sports Betting Brief for the week of Aug. 12-16. In this column, we’ll set the stage for Keystone State sports bettors’ week ahead and spotlight some potentially advantageous betting opportunities.
It was a very busy week for Pennsylvania sportsbooks last week, with momentous movement on both the retail and online fronts. We’ll hit on the major stories in the Keystone State’s betting space over the last seven days and then delve into betting takes for the Eagles’ and Steelers’ second preseason games later this week.
Pennsylvania Sports Betting Industry News
No dog days of summer; eventful start to August for Pennsylvania sports betting scene
August has a reputation as one of the most uneventful months on the calendar. But that’s not exactly the case in the sports betting world, and especially not in Pennsylvania this year. As the state preps for its first full NFL season with legalized sports betting, there’s naturally plenty of ramping up going on. Last week was a perfect example.
The first sports-betting domino dropped on Monday. Parx Casino was the first online Keystone State sportsbook to debut an app in the Apple Store. The Bensalem-based operator was able to bring its app into compliance with Apple’s requirement that real-money gaming apps be fully designed with native iOS coding. That means FanDuel Sportsbook now has some competition in the Apple Store. And with an early August debut, there’s plenty of time to work out kinks ahead of the NFL’s regular season.
Not to be outdone, sister operators PlaySugarHouse and Rivers announced a $500,000 NFL Pick ‘Em Contest on the same day. The vig-free promotion actually may see its prize pool grow even larger. The $500K figure is the guaranteed amount, but the prize pool will grown accordingly if $500,000 worth of entry fees are exceeded. Those fees are $125 for those who sign up prior to Aug. 15 and $150 after that date. Only Pennsylvania residents with active PlaySugarHouse or BetRivers accounts can participate. Up to 25 entries per individual participant are allowed. The deadline to sign up is prior to kickoff of Week 1 games on Sunday, Sept. 8.
The top prize is a cool $125K. Then, the top weekly winner snags $2,500. But ineptitude will also be rewarded: the contestant with the most incorrect entries will receive $2,500 as well.
And lest the online sportsbooks steal all the headlines, the retail side made some noise last week. Parx’s brick-and-mortar location cut the ribbon on its new sportsbook Thursday. The $10 million project replaces the temporary location that had been in use since January. Naturally, there’s no shortage of amenities. They include 7,400 square feet of space, a 156-foot HD media wall that will have the ability to show up to 36 sporting events at once, six live tellers, 18 kiosks, and capacity for up to 422 people. The location has already taken its first NFL bets: it opened in time for last Thursday’s Eagles-Titans preseason tilt.
This Week’s Best Bets at PA Sportsbooks
Philadelphia Eagles at Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, August 15, 7:00 p.m. EDT
- SugarHouse Casino Total Points Odds: Over 38 (-110)/ Under 38 (-110)
- FanDuel Sportsbook Total Points Odds: Over 38 (-104)/ Under 38 (-122)
- Rivers Casino Total Points Odds: Over 38 (-110)/ Under 38 (-110)
The Jaguars got their preseason off to an inauspicious start against the Ravens, looking completely out of sorts while dropping a 29-0 decision last Thursday. However, the lack of any form of cohesiveness can certainly be at least partly attributed to Jacksonville going with a relatively unrecognizable starting lineup on offense. There was no sign of Nick Foles, Leonard Fournette, or Dede Westbrook. Then, Marqise Lee, still recovering from last season’s ACL tear, was not in uniform either. Instead, the Jaguars rolled out the likes of Alex McGough and Gardner Minshew at quarterback, Alfred Blue and Ryquell Armstead at running back, and Trey McBride and DJ Chark at receiver.
Now looking ahead, it’s quite possible Fournette sits at least one more game. Lee certainly won’t be back. There’s more of a chance of seeing Foles and Westbrook, but it’s unlikely that will be for long. Then, the Jags defense will likely be much better than versus Baltimore. But for the time being, it certainly looks like even the first team is still working through some kinks. They were partly responsible for Baltimore scoring 16 first-half points.
On the other side, the Eagles also sputtered in their opener against the Titans. They dropped a 27-10 decision. And the quarterback that did manage to lead them to their only touchdown, Nate Sudfeld, suffered a broken wrist during the game. We could well see the preseason debut of Carson Wentz on Thursday, but chances are it won’t be for longer than two series. Then, it’s worth noting that several other talented first- and second-team skill players did take the field for Philly last week: Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Wendell Smallwood, Dallas Goedert, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside. Granted, that still didn’t lead to much on the scoreboard.
While both of these teams will profile much better once the regular season arrives, I see another offensively quiet night unfolding. Wentz could be a bit rusty when it comes to game situations. Plus, weapons like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Zach Ertz could well sit another game. The Jags will likely be without several key pieces again altogether. Despite the low total, I’m going with the Under.
The Pick: Under 38 points
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs, Saturday, August 17, 7:30 p.m. EDT
- SugarHouse Casino Total Points Odds: Over 43.5 (-110)/ Under 43.5 (-110)
- FanDuel Sportsbook Total Points Odds: Over 44.5 (+102)/ Under 44.5 (-128)
- Rivers Casino Total Points Odds: Over 43.5 (-110)/ Under 43.5 (-110)
Last week, we speculated the Steelers boasted plenty of preseason-quality offensive depth even if many of their front-line players sat. They proceeded to validate that assessment by contributing plenty toward their game with the Buccaneers comfortably exceeding the Over. Both Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs were productive while getting a bulk of the snaps. Rudolph led two scoring drives, while Dobbs preceded him with some sharp passing and one memorable scramble that showed off his athleticism. This time around against the Chiefs, it’s possible Ben Roethlisberger logs at least a series or two. If that’s the case, it’s fair to argue the Steelers will have a legitimate chance to put points on the board each time they’re on the field.
In the ground game, 2019 fourth-round pick Benny Snell saw plenty of playing time versus Tampa. While he was highly inefficient from a yards-per-carry basis, he was solid as a receiver. Then, the highly versatile Jaylen Samuels could well see a good bit more than the two carries he logged in the opener. There’s also a chance James Conner sees at least one series in Saturday’s game. On the receiver front, James Washington looks set to carry a heavy workload this preseason if his snap count in the opener is any indication. The likes of 2019 third-round pick Diontae Johnson, Eli Rogers, Ryan Switzer and former CFL star Diontae Spencer could also see extended time versus Kansas City.
On the Chiefs’ end, it appears head coach Andy Reid won’t be shy about rolling out some starters if his personnel usage in the preseason opener is any indication. Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins were all somewhat surprisingly out there for the opening series against the Bengals last week and made their respective mark on the stat sheet. There was no Damien Williams in the backfield since he was dealing with a hamstring injury. However, he returned to practice Monday and could make his preseason debut against the Steelers. Meanwhile, Carlos Hyde and Darrell Williams are both capable backups. Tyreek Hill could also potentially see some snaps to open the game Saturday alongside Watkins, adding to the potential firepower for KC.
Considering the offensive performances of both clubs in their openers—the Chiefs ultimately put up 38 against the Bengals, while the Steelers totaled 30 against the Bucs—I see this game going Over.
The Pick: Over 44.5 points