Dec 2, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Bettors backing Steelers, Bills for MNF doubleheader

Four teams in starkly different situations will take the field in a Monday night doubleheader created due to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ COVID-19-impacted schedule.

The Steelers are chasing the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC and remain undefeated with five games remaining in their regular season. They are 6.5-point favorites by BetRivers and FanDuel against the Washington Football Team (4-7), which is looking to keep pace with the New York Giants (5-7) in the NFC East race.

Pittsburgh is trying to become just the sixth team since 2000 to start a season 12-0 and needs a win to stay ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs (11-1) in the race for top seed and the lone bye week in the AFC playoffs.

The Steelers are being backed by 91 percent of the moneyline handle (-286) and 77 percent of the spread handle at BetRivers. The picture is similar at FanDuel, where Pittsburgh is being backed by 71 percent of the moneyline handle and 68 percent of the spread handle.

The Steelers are a league-best 8-3 against the spread this season at BetRivers, where bettors are also backing the over of 41.5 total points scored with 72 percent of the handle.

Pittsburgh entered Monday at +300 by PointsBet to go undefeated during the regular season, compared to -400 odds to lose at least one game.

If the Steelers get by the Washington Football Team, the quest for perfection will move on to a Week 14 road trip to face the AFC East-leading Bills.

Buffalo (8-3) holds a slim half-game lead over the Miami Dolphins (8-4) entering their Monday night game against San Francisco. The 49ers (5-6) remain in the thick of the NFC wild card hunt as they play the first of two “home” games at the Arizona Cardinals stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County.

The Bills are 1.0-point favorites by BetRivers and FanDuel, where they are being backed by 78 percent of the spread bets. The +100 moneyline bet on Buffalo at BetRivers is being backed by 83 percent of the handle. The Bills have won three consecutive games against the spread at the book, where bettors are also backing the over of 47 points being scored with 83 percent of the handle.

FanDuel is also offering a +180 odds boost on a $50 max prop bet for the Steelers and Bills winning.

–Field Level Media

Oct 25, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team linebacker Jon Bostic (53) tackles Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (14) during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

No ban coming for Bostic’s blow to Dalton’s head

There is no suspension in the offing for Washington Football Team linebacker Jon Bostic, who was ejected for a hit on a sliding Andy Dalton in Sunday’s game.

Per multiple reports, the NFL determined Bostic would not be suspended but is likely to be fined for the shoulder-to-facemask blast on the Cowboys’ quarterback. Dalton left the game and was diagnosed with a concussion.

Scrambling from his own 3-yard line, Dalton gained six yards and began to slide, which signals to defenders he’s also entering the no-contact zone. With his knees on the turf, Dalton was met with a vicious shoulder blow from Bostic.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said he was pleased Bostic was ejected, but didn’t appreciate the lack of “response” from the Cowboys.

“We speak all the time about playing for one another, protecting one another. Definitely, it was probably not the response you would expect,” McCarthy said.

Dallas was trailing 22-3 and lost the game to Washington, 25-3.

Dalton was making his second start in place of Dak Prescott, who is out for the season with a dislocated ankle.

The Cowboys have been outscored 63-13 in those two games, and there are signs of splintering.

“If we ain’t in this all together as one band, (expletive) creeps in like this,” said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. “It’s really all about us finding trust into each other, us believing the system, us fighting for each other as a brotherhood and really shaping some things up.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 27, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Kyle Allen (8) throws the ball during warmups before the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Allen in at QB as WFT awaits Rams visit

After watching the Washington Football Team lose the past three games by double digits, coach Ron Rivera is making a major change.

Rivera benched second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins, demoting him to third string, and named Kyle Allen the starter for Sunday’s game against the visiting Los Angeles Rams. Alex Smith was elevated to No. 2 on the depth chart.

“I’m here to win,” Rivera said Wednesday. “Now’s an opportunity to find out if we can win.”

Haskins was the 15th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, but Rivera told reporters on Wednesday that he wanted to field a quarterback with a better understanding of the offensive system put in place by Washington (1-3). Allen draws the Rams (3-1) before a stretch of games against NFC East opponents, including a pair against the winless Giants with a visit from the Dallas Cowboys (1-3) in between.

Allen played the past two seasons for Rivera in Carolina, starting 13 games.

Allen got off to a strong start last season after taking over for injured starter Cam Newton in the third game. He threw seven touchdowns with no interceptions and won his first four starts, but he and Carolina faded in the second half, losing their final eight games.

The Rams have a winning record through the first four games for the fifth straight season and can finish 4-0 against the NFC East with a win against Washington.

Los Angeles is coming off a 17-9 win vs. the New York Giants on Sunday. They also beat the Philadelphia Eagles (37-19) on Sept. 20 and the Dallas Cowboys (20-17) in the season opener.

There’s plenty of room for improvement.

“This is nowhere near our best on both sides of the ball,” Rams cornerback Darious Williams said after his late interception sealed the win against the Giants. “I just see a ton of growth happening in these next 12 games.”

The Rams are racking up the airline miles early in the season. Since opening SoFi Stadium in Week 1, they’ve played at Philadelphia and Buffalo and head to Maryland this weekend. They still have trips to Tampa and Miami on the schedule.

Whether cornerback Jalen Ramsey is along for the trip this week is up in the air. The Rams are not planning to share publicly any discipline handed down to Ramsey for the on-field fight with Giants wide receiver Golden Tate after last week’s game. The NFL could still have a word in the matter.

“It was really more along the lines of ‘Let’s be smart. Let’s make sure we don’t let this take away from what we just were able to accomplish as a team,’” Rams head coach Sean McVay said.

Haskins is likely to be inactive when Jared Goff and the Rams visit FedEx Field.

Smith, 36, is a 14-year veteran who started the first 10 games for Washington two years ago before severely breaking his leg on Nov. 18, 2018. He has not been active since.

Haskins was coming off one of his better performances this season, completing 32 of 45 passes for 314 yards in a 31-17 loss to the visiting Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. He didn’t throw any touchdowns or commit a turnover. A week earlier, he committed four turnovers in a 34-20 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

“I think our best chance to win is putting the ball in somebody else’s hands,” Rivera said. “I think our best chance to have things done in our offense is in somebody else’s hands. That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing that based on what I’ve seen. I just think right now, this is the decision I’m making.”

Washington second-year wide receiver Terry McLaurin seemed in sync with Haskins. They were teammates at Ohio State. McLaurin caught a career-high 10 passes against Baltimore for 118 yards.

McLaurin, fifth in the NFL with 387 receiving yards, missed practice on Wednesday with a thigh injury, but is expected to play Sunday.

McLaurin will likely recognize at least one player in the secondary for the Rams.

Jordan Fuller, a rookie safety from Ohio State, is expected to return after missing Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.

Los Angeles expects a boost to its strong running game with the return of rookie Cam Akers, a second-round draft pick out of Florida State who missed the past two games with a rib injury.

Darrell Henderson Jr. and Malcolm Brown have split the workload for the Rams, who are seventh in the NFL at 142.3 rushing yards a game. Akers provides another quality option.

Washington is allowing 129.8 rushing yards per game this season.

–Field Level Media

Aug 19, 2020; Ashburn, Virginia, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Kyle Allen (8) passes the ball as quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. (7) watches on day twenty-two of training camp at Inova Sports Performance Center in Ashburn, Virginia. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

QB Haskins benched, Allen to start for Washington Football Team

Dwayne Haskins lost the starting quarterback job and the Washington Football Team is turning to Kyle Allen.

Allen will start Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams. He will be backed up by veteran Alex Smith, who hasn’t taken an NFL snap since suffering a gruesome leg injury nearly two years ago.

The 24-year-old Allen was acquired by Washington in the offseason, reuniting him with head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner from their time together with the Carolina Panthers.

A first-round pick in 2019, Haskins has completed 61 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, three interceptions and one fumble. Washington is 1-3.

Allen started 12 games for the Panthers in 2019 due to Cam Newton’s season-ending foot injury. Turner was quarterbacks coach in Carolina and joined Rivera, the first-year head coach of the Washington Football Team, to be the primary play-caller.

Rivera said in the offseason that the trade, which cost Washington a fifth-round pick, made too much sense.

“Kyle is also a young guy who has a live arm, understands the game, understands how we do things,” Rivera said. “So, I’m excited about what the potential could be.”

The Washington Football Team overhauled the entire front office with Rivera holding the primary voice in football decisions. In essence, the scouting staff and personnel department that wanted Haskins was removed in the offseason.

But Haskins lost 20 pounds, showed up after remote offseason training with a chip on his shoulder, and was named the starter over Allen in mid-August.

Injuries to the offensive line, including Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff, and ongoing growing pains at left tackle were not aids in Haskins’ development.

Rivera said last week he wanted to see “development” from Haskins against the Baltimore Ravens, including “making the right decisions.” But Washington lost 31-17, its third consecutive defeat by at least two touchdowns since beating the Philadelphia Eagles to open the 2020 season.

Haskins, 23, has played in 13 games in his first two NFL seasons. He has 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and has been sacked 42 times.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team as part of the NFL s Crucial Catch honors head coach Ron Rivera with a banner and cutouts of friends and family against the Baltimore Ravens at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Rivera to coach Washington through treatment

Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera plans to remain on the sideline through the final three weeks of his ongoing cancer treatment.

Rivera appeared to be physically exhausted during Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens. He was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in August, but has missed only two practices and part of another.

Rivera said doctors told him his prognosis is very good and a full recovery is expected. He shared his story with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.

“It’s who I am,” Rivera said of his plan to remain in his head-coaching role the rest of October during treatment.

“Listening to the doctors talking about how important it is to try and do as much of the routine as possible, but they also tell you, ‘Hey, be careful, listen to your body.’ And also, there’s other people watching me, so I’m just trying to set the example.”

Rivera has former NFL head coach Jack Del Rio, Washington’s defensive coordinator, to rely on if he misses practices or eventually is not well enough for game day.

Friends and family purchased 400 cardboard cutouts for a section of the stadium on Sunday to show their support through the American Cancer Society. Rivera said he didn’t know anything about the gesture, which caused an emotional reaction.

“As [ESPN anchor] Stuart Scott said, ‘I have it; it doesn’t have me.’ And it’s not how far I have to go, but it’s how far I’ve gone,” Rivera said.

–Field Level Media

Sep 28, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens  quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) huddles the offense in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens, Jackson ready to run for rebound at Washington

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson earned NFL MVP accolades last season, but realizes he didn’t keep up appearances on Monday night.

In a 34-20 home loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Jackson completed just 15-of-28 passes for 97 yards while rushing for 83 yards, including 30 on one carry on Baltimore’s first series.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jackson said of his struggles. “We’re going to keep playing ball.”

The Ravens have a short week to forget about their woes. They visit Beltway rival Washington Football Team on Sunday afternoon.

“We’re 2-1,” Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “There’s a lot more football to come.”

Washington (1-2) has similar resolve after inconsistent play marred a 34-20 Week 3 loss at Cleveland. Washington took a 7-0 lead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Dwayne Haskins to Dontrelle Inman — their first of two scoring connections on the day — but the Browns responded with a 17-0 second quarter.

Thirteen unanswered points in the third staked Washington to a 20-17 lead entering the fourth before the Browns closed the game on another 17-0 run.

Washington rookie defensive end Chase Young, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft, sustained a groin injury in the second quarter Sunday and didn’t return to action, although he did watch the second half from the sidelines. Young, who has collected 2.5 sacks in his first three professional games. He is unlikely to play this week. NFL Network reported Young would not play this week.

“We’ll see how the week goes with Chase,” said Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, who ran practice Wednesday as coach Ron Rivera underwent cancer treatment. “We’ve got time. To make declarations early in the week doesn’t serve anyone’s purpose. We’ll see how that goes as we progress through the week.”

Inman (wrist) and rookie WR Steven Sims Jr. (toe) didn’t practice Wednesday.

Although the Ravens called 28 passes against 21 runs Monday, coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday that he didn’t view the split as an imbalance. The Ravens rushed the ball on six of the first seven plays before the drive stalled with three successive passes in the red zone.

“I don’t think we got away from the run after the first series, but we need to score a touchdown there,” Harbaugh said. “I think once we got in the red zone, we’ve looked at those plays really hard. [Offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] has, especially hard. Nobody looks at the play-calling more than Greg Roman, who in my opinion is one of the best play-callers in the National Football League and has proven that.

“We’re a running team. We want to run the ball as much as we can. We also want to be productive in the passing game. … We’re not going to get away from being a running team. That’s something that we think is very important and we’ll try to do our best at calling as many runs as we can every single week.”

Baltimore averaged 7.5 yards a carry against the Chiefs, but the team’s running backs combined for just 12 carries.

Washington defeated Baltimore in the teams’ past two meetings, including a 16-10 victory in the most recent encounter, on Oct. 9, 2016. The Beltway rivals have split six meetings all-time, with the Ravens holding a 102-94 scoring edge.

–Field Level Media