The abbreviated NFL preseason comes to a close this weekend with the summer-ending exhibition contests looking more like glorified inter-squad scrimmages than actual games, although paying fans are charged for them like they’re the real thing. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles are both on the road, and both are underdogs in PA sports betting.
Pittsburgh (+3.5) at Carolina, 7:30 p.m. Friday
The final preseason game for the Steelers will be one where the evaluation of some question-mark players will be a priority and as a result, the Carolina Panthers, playing at home, moved from a 1-point to a 3.5-point favorite.
The PA gambling outlook for the game highlights the vagaries of the NFL preseason. The favored Panthers are 0-2 in no-count games and the underdog Steelers are 3-0 (Pittsburgh played in the Hall of Fame exhibition game against Dallas).
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For the Steelers, former Washington Football Team first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins will start at quarterback hoping to secure a roster spot. Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph, the No. 1 and No. 2 QBs, are not expected to play at all. Haskins’ career collapsed in Washington last season when he was yanked in a December game (also against Carolina) and summarily cut.
It will be a challenging outing for Haskins. The Panthers are expected to play their defensive starters and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will be looking for answers at other positions, especially at running back where Benny Snell, who has been hurt, will step in for first-round rookie RB Najee Harris.
The Steelers are the third pick (+320) to win the AFC North behind close co-favorites Baltimore (+120) and Cleveland (+145). Much will depend on Roethlisberger staying healthy, and an offensive line that has been completely reshuffled and needs to develop cohesion.
Philadelphia (+4) at Jets, 7:30 p.m. Friday
The Eagles finish the preseason on the road at MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets and are expected to play out the exhibition string with their starters mostly sitting out. The Jets are a 4-point favorite.
In an uncustomary role as divisional longshot, the Eagles are predicted as the No. 4 team (+475) in the NFC East behind Dallas, Washington and the New York Giants, in that order. However, the four teams have won exactly one preseason game combined so the division figures to come down to attrition and a 50-yard field goal here and there.
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Eagles followers would normally be focused on starting QB Jalen Hurts, but they may have to settle for watching him standing on the sideline. Hurts’ status for the Jets game is doubtful. Despite being anointed at the Eagles No. 1, Hurts remains an unknown quantity. He has an extremely thin resume.
Hurts was 1-4 as a starter last year, flashing potential as a mobile quarterback. In the preseason, he sat out Game 2 against New England with a illness (not COVID-19). Hurts has been practicing against the Jets in joint sessions and reportedly has looked quite good, but Eagles coach Nick Sirianni has been coy about who will play Friday night, and that includes Hurts.
Not to be overlooked is the situation at left offensive tackle, where Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively on the depth chart. Mailata, a former rugby player, will likely start in the regular season over the former first-round pick Dillard, but Dillard is returning from a knee injury so he should get a long look against the Jets.