Welcome to the Pennsylvania Sports Betting Brief for NFL Week 16. 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 we head towards the conclusion of a momentous year for the Pennsylvania sports betting scene, there is no shortage of reasons for optimism for sports betting advocates and participants in the state. We’ll take a closer look at one of the biggest — November’s sports betting numbers — and also offer betting perspectives on the crucial Week 16 matchups for both the Eagles and Steelers as each squad looks to secure a postseason spot.
Pennsylvania Sports Betting Industry News
November sports betting numbers bring plenty of holiday cheer to PA’s sports bettors, coffers
It’s been a busy end to 2019 for the Pennsylvania sports betting scene. To the delight of lawmakers and sports betting supporters in the Keystone State, the news has been overwhelmingly positive. The biggest collective assortment of good vibes came from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB)’s recent release of November sports betting numbers. The Keystone State passed the $1 billion mark in handle since the rollout of legalized betting in late 2018 with a month that saw a record $316.5 million in wagers placed.
The online betting space continued to rule the roost in Pennsylvania. A whopping 84.0 percent of that amount was placed with mobile operators. FanDuel Sportsbook was once again atop the heap in that segment, with $149.7 million in online handle. No other operator was even remotely close in that category. Sugarhouse/Rivers Philadelphia was a distant second with $32.4 million.
DraftKings Sportsbook, which went live Nov. 7, made its first drop in the state’s first sports betting bucket with $16.2 million in handle during November. That number was disappointing considering the company’s much bigger impact in New Jersey. However, it’s also a figure that’s destined to grow in December and beyond with the company having the benefits of a full month of operation each month from this point forward and brand awareness taking hold.
On the retail end of the spectrum, SugarHouse/Rivers ($8.8 million) Rivers Pittsburgh ($8.1 million) and Parx ($8.1 million) sat atop the leaderboard in terms of handle. FoxBet/Mount Airy continued to struggle, generating just $868,026 in retail handle to bring up the rear in the state.
The amount held by Pennsylvania operators did hold steady in November despite the bump in handle. The Keystone State continues to find the $15 million threshold in revenue a tough barrier to break through. Revenue checked in at $14.7 million in November, keeping it just below the $15 million figure for the third straight month.
This Week’s Best Bets at PA Sportsbooks
NFL Week 16
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets — 1:00 p.m. ET
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: -3 (-120)
- FOX Bet Point Spread/Odds: -3.5 (+100)
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: -3 (-120)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: -3 (-120)
The Steelers saw their rather improbable four-game winning streak — one they accomplished with a combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at quarterback — come to a halt last Sunday night against the Bills. Pittsburgh certainly put up an admirable fight in defeat before succumbing, 17-10. In turn, the Jets were throttled by the Ravens, 42-21. About the only positive from New York stemming from that game is that they got it out of the way Thursday night, giving them extra rest coming into this contest.
The Steelers will almost certainly eventually be forced to rely on their passing game and defense to pull out a win in this spot. The Jets’ run defense has been near impenetrable all season. New York comes into this contest allowing just 88.8 rushing yards per contest. James Conner looked good in his return from a shoulder injury in Week 15 against the Bills. But teams just haven’t made a living running on New York this season. Hodges’ inexperience did start to show against Buffalo. The rookie quarterback will have a markedly easier matchup against a Jets secondary allowing 243.4 passing yards per contest. Pittsburgh will also be getting JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) back from his four-game absence due to a knee injury.
The Jets will have their work cut out for them against a Pittsburgh defense that’s been the league’s most aggressive. The Steelers have registered 49 sacks, 19 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries. That’s about as bad a matchup for a mistake-prone New York squad as there is. The Jets have allowed their quarterbacks to get taken down an almost identical 48 times. They’ve also been guilty of 15 interceptions and eight lost fumbles. Le’Veon Bell could certainly have some extra motivation against his old teammates, but the matchup has proven largely prohibitive for running backs this season, especially on the road — Pittsburgh is allowing just 93.3 rushing yards per contest when traveling. The ball-hawking secondary doesn’t offer Sam Darnold much solace, especially considering he might be down Robby Anderson (illness) as well.
Ultimately, I lean toward a highly motivated Steelers team that’s fighting to hold onto its projected Wild Card spot doing enough to accomplish both the win and the cover of the modest spread.
The Lean: Steelers moneyline, Steelers -3
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys — 4:25pm ET
- DraftKings Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: +2 (-110)
- FOX Bet Point Spread/Odds: +2.5 (-110)
- FanDuel Sportsbook Point Spread/Odds: +1.5 (-105)
- Rivers Casino Point Spread/Odds: +2 (-110)
The Eagles and Cowboys meeting in a Week 16 showdown for the division title wouldn’t have been a far-fetched notion by any stretch prior to the season. What would have been much more unlikely is the thought each squad would be in that position while carrying a mediocre 7-7 record into the contest. Such is 2019 life for both these teams. Philadelphia at least has injuries to partially blame. Both squads did notch Week 15 wins. The Eagles managing to get past the Redskins by a 37-27 score. Dallas impressively put away the Rams, 44-21.
The Cowboys found success on the ground against the Eagles in their Week 7 meeting this season. That’s not been a common occurrence for teams facing Philadelphia this season. Ezekiel Elliott shook loose for 111 yards and a touchdown. A similar performance might be tough to replicate against a Philly run defense that remains as stingy as ever late in the season (80.6 YPG allowed at home, 77.3 YPG allowed overall in last three). However, sticking with the run against those long odds might be what this game calls for. The Eagles’ secondary looks deceptively vulnerable on paper. They’ve been a legitimately different secondary at home. While Philly has surrendered 289.9 yards through the air per road game, they’ve given up the fourth fewest per home contest (187.7). Amari Cooper has often been matchup-proof when healthy this season. Yet, Philly’s numbers against the pass at Lincoln Financial Field imply he may have to work for every catch and yard he gets.
The Eagles will once again find themselves facing a serious personnel shortage at receiver. That would be somewhat alleviated if they can get Nelson Agholor back from his knee injury. He heads into the weekend with a questionable tag. In Week 15, Zach Ertz and Greg Ward, Jr., with help from Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders, were enough to topple the Redskins. The challenge gets tougher this week against a Dallas defense yielding just 208.1 passing yards per game on the road. It’s a similarly difficult proposition on paper when it comes to the ground game. The Cowboys allow only 91.0 rushing yards per game on the road and successfully limited Sanders to 21 yards on six carries in their first meeting this season. Sanders’ usage has shot up since that contest (six straight games with double-digit rushing touches). He broke out for a career-high 122 rushing yards (19 carries) against Washington last Sunday and could be in for another solid workload Sunday even if Jordan Howard (shoulder) overcomes his questionable tag.
This should be a wire-to-wire battle considering how well the teams know each other and the stakes at hand. Ultimately, I lean toward the home team doing enough to pull the outright upset against a Cowboys squad that hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record until last week’s victory over the Rams.
The Lean: Eagles moneyline, Eagles +2