NFL betting handicappers will have to evaluate the worth of the Steelers as 3rd string quarterback Dennis Dixon will make the start in this NFL gambling opener.
Sports-Gambling.com opened with Atlanta as a 2.5-point favorite and with an over/under of 38. The quarterback situation is why Pittsburgh is in the rare position of being a home dog.
Pittsburgh’s regular starting QB, Ben Roethlisberger, is suspended for the first 4 games of the season due his violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Byron Leftwich, the 2nd string QB, was hurt in last week’s preseason finale, which means that Dixon must start against Atlanta.
“It’s every quarterback’s dream to get an opportunity to start in the National Football League,” said Dixon, who has 1 career start. “My number’s called now, I’m going to have fun with it, I’m happy, then again there’s a lot of work to be had.” Charlie Batch will back up Dixon.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall figures to get plenty of work out of the backfield. Pittsburgh has beaten the NFL odds in 14 out of their last 20 games as a dog with 5 consecutive payouts.
The Atlanta Falcons enter the season with the highest expectations in franchise history. Head coach Mike Smith is the first ever Falcon coach to lead the franchise to consecutive winning seasons. Atlanta hopes to return to the post season in 2010 and is considered a top contender to unseat the New Orleans Saints for supremacy in the NFC South.
“We feel like we can take the next step,” said wideout Roddy White. “Everyone wants to take that next step. Everyone is doing what it takes to get there.” Matt Ryan leads the offense as a 3-year starter who began that role as a rookie.
Atlanta worked to improve the defense during the offseason and acquired CB Dunta Robinson to shore up a pass defense that ranked 26th last year. Atlanta has beaten the NFL lines in 11 out of their last 16 games as a favorite with 6 covers in their last 8 as chalks.
Atlanta has covered the spread in their last 4 NFL betting matchups with Pittsburgh although the teams have not met since 2006. The last two games in the series have gone over the total.