Welcome to the Pennsylvania Sports Betting Brief for NFL Week 4. In this column, we’ll review some recent sports betting news in the Keystone State and spotlight some potentially advantageous betting opportunities as well.
As the first partial month of 2019 NFL regular-season action for Pennsylvania sportsbooks draws to a close, there’s yet another new arrival on the burgeoning scene. Wilkes-Barre-based Mohegan Sun Pocono opened it UniBet-branded retail sportsbook Tuesday with a soft launch. We’ll delve into the details, plus offer betting takes for both the Eagles‘ and Steelers‘ Week 4 games.
Pennsylvania Sports Betting Industry News
Keystone State gets 11th sportsbook with Mohegan Sun’s Unibet rollout
We knew Pennsylvania’s first full NFL season with legalized sports betting would be busy. That’s unsurprisingly proving to be true in the early going. Debuting sportsbooks are part of the hubbub of activity. Tuesday saw the soft launch of Mohegan Sun Pocono’s Unibet-branded retail sportsbook location. Just two weeks ago it was Mount Airy Casino doing the honors. They rolled out their brick-and-mortar location about a week after the debut of their online skin, FOX Bet. Mohegan is flip-flopping the order in their case. Their online platform — which will also carry the Unibet brand — will be debuting at a yet-to-be-determined date.
The UniBet retail location had an eight-hour betting window (4:00 pm to midnight) Tuesday during its first day of mandated Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) testing. Wednesday was to expand that by two hours — wagers were accepted beginning at 2:00pm local time. Assuming all goes well, the official grand opening is set for Thursday at 11:00 am once the PGCB issues its final approval. Hours once full operations begin are expected to be 11:00am to midnight each day. Pennsylvania bettors will be treated to 1,130 square feet of sportsbook space that will include video walls with the ability to display up to 16 separate sporting events, a ticker, six sports betting terminals and one racebook betting terminal.
The casino and sportsbook are located at 1280 PA-315 in Wilkes-Barre. The sportsbook is run by Unibet and Kindred Gaming. Unibet is in its 22nd year of developing and operating platforms for sports betting, online casino, bingo and online poker. It’s a global player in the gaming industry with clients in over 100 countries. Kindred is the parent company and has 10 other brands besides UniBet under its umbrella.
This Week’s Best Bets at PA Sportsbooks
NFL Week 4
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers, Thursday, 9/26 — 8:20 p.m. ET
- SugarHouse Point Spread Odds: +4 (-110)
- FOX Bet Point Spread Odds: +4 (-110)
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread Odds: +4 (-110)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread Odds: +4 (-110)
The Eagles’ early-season stumbles continued in Week 3. Short-handed Philadelphia was unable to defend home field against the Lions. They dropped a 27-24 decision with both Alshon Jeffery (calf) and DeSean Jackson (groin) missing the contest as expected. Carson Wentz understandably looked out of rhythm often without those two trusted pass catchers in the lineup. He completed just 52.8 percent of his passes — his lowest figure since Week 11 of the 2017 season. Philadelphia also lost another member of its defense when starting cornerback Ronald Darby went down with a hamstring injury. He’ll be out Thursday and for several weeks.
There’s some cautiously optimistic news heading into Thursday night’s game. Jeffery was a full participant in Tuesday’s walk-through practice and is expected to play. His presence, even as a potential part-time decoy, does help take some of the attention off Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz. They were the targets on 19 of Wentz’s 36 attempts versus Detroit. Philadelphia does face a tough challenge in the form of the Packers’ fifth-ranked pass defense (197.3 passing yards allowed per game) no matter who lines up for them. But a Green Bay front that’s surrendered 131.0 rushing yards per game through three weeks could be a big key to the Eagles finding balance and keeping it close.
Philly has the backfield duo that could do just that — Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard. Thus far, Howard has handled lots of short-yardage/red-zone work. His 225-pound frame is a solid fit for that role. Sanders is the home-run hitter of the two and is capable of a big play any time he touches the ball. I can see the Philly run game being able to move the chains here on a fairly consistent basis while Wentz picks his spots through the air. While the Pack has generated the aforementioned solid numbers against the pass, it’s worth noting they’ve faced the underachieving trio of Mitchell Trubisky, Kirk Cousins and Joe Flacco thus far. Wentz arguably represents a step up in competition.
And finally, the Packers could find their offense tilting the other way. While Aaron Rodgers is going to find some holes in the Eagles’ porous secondary — especially with Darby now out of action — Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are likely to encounter tough sledding on the ground. Philadelphia is allowing the second-fewest rushing yards per game (57.0) and Jones has already turned in two inefficient outings in the first three games. The Eagles therefore have a solid chance of setting the tone early by stonewalling the rushing attack and making the Pack primarily one-dimensional. That, too, would play a significant role in helping them keep this close enough for a cover, at minimum.
The Pick: Eagles +4
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Monday, 9/30 — 8:15 p.m. ET
- SugarHouse Total Points Odds: 43.5 points (-110)
- FOX Bet Total Points Odds: 44 points (-110)
- FanDuel Total Points Odds: 43.5 points- Over (-120)/Under (+100)
- Rivers Casino Total Points Odds: 43.5 points (-110)
Two AFC North rivals that have definitely seen better days clash at Heinz Field on Monday night. Each squad is 0-3. Yet if preseason expectations are the measuring stick, the Steelers are arguably the more disappointed/desperate team. Even after losing Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown this offseason, Pittsburgh was largely expected to be a lower-end postseason contender. That outlook changed drastically at halftime of the Week 2 loss to the Seahawks. Ben Roethlisberger was declared out for the remainder of the contest, and eventually, the rest of the season due to an elbow injury.
Second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph stepped in against Seattle and turned in an admirable performance that included a pair of touchdowns. Yet he clearly seemed to take a step back in a Week 3 loss to the 49ers despite having the full week to prepare as the starter. Rudolph’s final line wasn’t bad, but it bears noting 118 of his 174 yards came on just two plays. Then again, Rudolph is likely to get better with each game he plays and sees a downgrade in competition this week versus Cincinnati’s secondary.
While the 49ers are now allowing the seventh-fewest passing yards per game (208.3) after Week 3, the Bengals are allowing 237.7 passing yards per contest with a 66.6 percent completion rate. They’re even more susceptible on the ground. Cincy’s 168.7 rushing yards per game allowed rank them ahead of only the historically bad Dolphins in that category. James Conner, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell could certainly play major roles in keeping pressure off Rudolph and helping the Pittsburgh offense find the end zone on more than one occasion. It’s also noteworthy that Rudolph found rookie Diontae Johnson for one of his two touchdown passes against San Francisco in the young wideout’s first game as the No. 2 receiver. Johnson should also improve the more reps he logs. Then, Rudolph also has extensive rapport with explosive third receiver James Washington from their college days.
The Bengals could have their chances as well versus a Pittsburgh rush defense that’s surprisingly struggled early. The Steelers are allowing 139.3 rushing yards per contest, fifth most in the league through three weeks. The multi-talented Joe Mixon enjoyed his best game of the season by far in Week 3 and also gained a combined 169 rushing yards across two games versus the Black and Gold last season. The Steelers’ secondary did look somewhat improved last week with the addition of safety Minkah Fitzpatrick via trade. However, Pittsburgh is still yielding 302.7 pass yards per game. That’s the second most in the NFL. They allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to throw for 277 yards in the Week 3 loss and couldn’t make key stops to preserve a late lead.
Pittsburgh has allowed at least 24 points to each opponent thus far. The Bengals have the passing attack (308.3 yards per game, third most behind Chiefs and Patriots) to exploit the Steelers’ struggles on the back end. Then, both backfields have the talent to also capitalize on the breakdowns each team has had against the run. While Rudolph may struggle at times to hold up his end of the bargain, the balanced offenses both teams should mostly be able to run will send this game over its modest total in my view.
The Pick: Over 43.5 points