Don’t get caught napping! Pro football returns Thursday night with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio (8 p.m. ET, Fox).
A couple of quirky things about this year’s matchup:
— It was supposed to be played last year. Pittsburgh-Dallas was scheduled for Canton in 2020 but was canceled because of COVID-19.
— The HOF matchup is traditionally a Sunday night game on NBC. But because of Olympic commitments on that network, football bettors will be parked in front of Fox on Thursday night.
How have bettors been hitting the game? Honestly, the South Point hasn’t seen much early action. I opened the game Pittsburgh -1 based on my initial assessment of projected exhibition lineups. First bets came in on the Steelers, so I moved to Pittsburgh -1.5. I can’t say there was significant sharp interest. That could show up in the hours before kickoff once more is publicly (and privately) known about how much action key players will see.
I’ll tell you this: If you see the line move a half-point on game day, that’s probably just from public interest on one side. But if you see a jump to Pittsburgh -2.5 or more or the favorite flipping to Dallas, that would suggest sharps are getting involved.
I opened the Over/Under at 34. It has been bet down to 33. Recreational players almost always bet Over on game day because it’s more fun to root for points. That drop was due to some sharps hitting the Under out of the gate. They liked Under 34 but stopped betting at 33.
Today’s discussion begins a feature I’ll be writing all season. After reviewing line moves on Twitter the last few years, I’ll be expanding that market coverage here to let you know what’s happening in all the games of interest from now through the Super Bowl.
You longtime bettors (and VSiN regulars) know I’m from the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills. I don’t often wave my Terrible Towel when talking sports betting. But I do love the karma of kicking off this new feature with a Steelers game. That’s the way it was meant to be.
Because not much early betting has developed on Steelers-Cowboys, let’s talk about the outlook for both teams.
Regular-Season Win Totals
Pittsburgh: Opened 8.5 (Over -125), Now 8.5 (Under -125)
Dallas: Opened 9.5 (Under -130), Now 9 (Over -140)
Remember that NFL seasons are now 17 games. Summer markets are projecting Pittsburgh as a .500-type team (you can’t finish exactly .500 with an odd number of games unless a tie is involved). Dallas is seen as a slightly more serious playoff threat. But it’s worth noting that bettors shaded toward the Under with both teams. I had to raise the juice on Pittsburgh. And I dropped Dallas to nine because nobody was betting Over 9.5.
Odds to Win Super Bowl
Pittsburgh: Opened 25-1, Now 40-1
Dallas: Opened 25-1, Now 25-1
Pittsburgh’s odds grew friendlier for bettors because other AFC teams were drawing all the action. Cleveland dropped from 20-1 to 12-1 at the South Point. Indianapolis went from 30-1 to 15-1 before quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a foot injury. New England dipped from 40-1 to 20-1. And Denver went from 75-1 to 30-1. If you think the Steelers are getting disrespected by the market, now is a good time to step in.
Dallas isn’t seen as a Super Bowl team. But the Cowboys are getting the most respect in the beleaguered NFC East. Championship odds for their rivals: Washington 60-1, Philadelphia 70-1 and New York Giants 80-1.
I’ll see you again soon to go behind the line and help you understand how sharp and public action shape the point spreads, totals and futures you’ll be betting.
(Chris Andrews is the sportsbook director at the South Point in Las Vegas. He has been a Nevada bookmaker for 30 years.)