The NFL is finally back, kind of. Preseason football returns to our screens tonight and with the new sports betting legislation in America, gambling action is bound to pick up. But before you go throwing the keys to your house on a bet for tonight’s Eagles vs Steelers matchup, here’s a quick stat pack to help you pick where the smart money is going.
When it comes to preseason, the Eagles are as safe of a bet as they come. In their last 8 preseason contests at the Linc, the team are a perfect 8-0 both straight up and against the spread. In their last 14 preseason games, that record sits at a stunning 11-3.
To make life even more interesting, the Eagles tend to decimate Pittsburgh. They lead their regular season and postseason series by some margin. They’ve won 47 of 78 games against their local rivals and their last showdown was in week 3 of Carson Wentz’s rookie year. You know, that 34-3 win where Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner decided to turn into Le’Veon Bell for the afternoon. The Eagles haven’t lost a regular season home game to the Steelers since 1966.
Of course, this could be seen as ‘jinxing’ the streak, but if you’re a betting man, it’s hard to ignore trends that have quite literally transcended a generation.
This is where things will get interesting. The Eagles will of course be without Carson Wentz and more than likely be without Nick Foles, meaning that their quarterback reps will be split between a very encouraging Nate Sudfeld and a slightly underwhelming Joe Callahan.
They’ll be facing off against Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs, while Big Ben will be on the sidelines. Admittedly, they’re not the most intimidating duo in the world given that Jones did this during his last meeting with the Eagles…
The Eagles are just one day away from a preseason contest against the Steelers, who will be quarterbacked by Landry Jones. In case you need a reminder, here's a recap of the last time Landry Jones faced the Eagles in a preseason game pic.twitter.com/XZkQbP5X5R
— Philly Sports Network (@PhiladelphiaSN) August 8, 2018
The Steelers have a lethal offense and a very young quarterback room. Sudfeld may indeed hold one of the highest ceilings of the quarterbacks who will play tonight, but it all comes down to who shines on the day and the Steelers have a slightly more intense quarterback competition, so don’t be surprised if we see plenty of gunslinging from Pittsburgh.
One key area that favors the Eagles is the Steelers running back room. Without Le’Veon Bell around the team, it’s down to rookie Jaylen Samuels to make his mark. While he’s versatile, he hasn’t proven to be an exceptional pass-blocker and the backs beneath him on the depth chart don’t fit that mold either. When you line backs who struggle in pass-protection against such a rampant and deep pass-rush, there’s only one way it’s going to end…
While the Steelers have plenty of fresh faces to watch out for, including first-round pick, Terrell Edmunds, the Eagles appear to have a more complete team. With secondary depth brimming and a plethora of running backs who will be sprinting for their life, there aren’t many areas on the team you can highlight as a huge weakness.
The Eagles do have a stiff competition at outside linebacker, but Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry have very different skillsets. Both should see plenty of snaps this evening, but the Eagles can tilt the defense to best suit the weak side linebacker that’s on the field. Nickel formations will be aplenty and that means we will get to see a lot of Sidney Jones and De’Vante Bausby, who if history is anything to go by, will be licking their lips at making Landry Jones look like that friend who’s really bad at Madden.
The Eagles have more depth and more talent at skill positions and the competitions just seem stiffer. Sure, rookie wideouts Quadree Harrison and Damoun Patterson could make an impact, but they’ll be lining up against cornerbacks who are scrapping for every last snap as a starting role could well hinge on their preseason performance.
As of right now, the Eagles head into this one as -3.5 underdogs, depending on your bookmaker. The safe money would be to bet on the Eagles straight up, but I can see this game getting out of hand by halftime if the Eagles first and second string units can hit the ground running in front of a roaring home crowd.
Lay the points.
Philadelphia Eagles -3.5
Mandatory credit: Suchat Pederson/The News Journal via USA TODAY NETWORK