Two midweek themes punctuated Week 3 of the NFL season.
First came the changing of the guard at quarterback. The season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger, the prolonged setback to Drew Brees, and the benching of Eli Manning erased five Super Bowl rings from the gridiron.
A second focus became heavy favorites receiving wagering love, even as their spreads resemble college games.
Prohibitive, in NFL terms, has been re-defined.
Rising tides lead to betting action
Wagering by midweek featured surging interest in the Patriots and Cowboys, who give the NFL an unprecedented two favorites of more than 20 points in one week.
Instead of coaxing interest from the other side, the rising spreads continued luring money for New England. The Pats jumped from an 18 to a 22.5-point choice against the Jets. Dallas settled in at -22.5 against Miami.
“Eighty five percent of the wagering money has come in on the Cowboys and Patriots,” said Matt Stetz, the COO of Rush Street Interactive, which manages PlaySugarHouse.com in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
“Both teams remain strong in the betting.”
At some point, lines with big favorites go far enough for underdogs to prevail. But the bettors don’t see that here.
And they are playing with an unparalleled X factor: Miami being outscored 60-0 in the last six quarters at home and the Jets operating with a third-string quarterback.
Keep in mind that Tom Brady showed up on the Patriots injury report, although he should play.
Steelers’, Eagles’ country feeling the pinch
Even in Pennsylvania, the Steelers’ backyard, Stetz said “65 percent of the money has gone to the 49ers, (-6.5) which is unusual because the area is usually very heavy for the Steelers,” he indicated.
While Mason Rudolph may develop some rhythm for Pittsburgh, Big Ben was loaded with intangibles and this team has already lost Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.
Stetz said Philadelphia Eagles loyalty remained high but volume dropped off. The team is battling a slew of notable injuries like those to Alston Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson, and Cory Clement.
The Eagles even canceled practice on Wednesday because of that.
The ‘real sweet spot’ at SugarHouse NJ
The game generating the heaviest attention was the Rams giving three points in Cleveland.
Stetz said that a whopping 86% of the money rode on the Rams. That’s a significant number given their second road outing in three weeks and a Cleveland team expected to break through into the playoffs.
Interestingly, the Rams have been favored by 2.5-3 points in every game this season. That’s a real sweet spot to be wagering on with a strong team. A field goal victory is either a win or a push against the spread.
Another game teasing bettors is Baltimore getting 6.5 in Kansas City. The Ravens gave Pat Mahomes fits in a late-season game last year and the fluctuation in the payouts — Baltimore -121 and Kansas City even money — provides enough wiggle room to prompt the betting totals, which could move the line.
Carolina may soon be rebuilding. In Arizona, the 0-2 Panthers may or may not have Cam Newton, whose pre-season foot injury and limited effectiveness show that this team is too dependent upon him.
Away from the play: Vikings bettors
Kirk Cousins has the worst QB rating inside the 10-yard line of anyone in the league over the last three years.
He does not read plays well at that end of the field and has been throwing off his back foot, making his passes hang up for interceptions.
Look for him to start throwing the ball away more.