Over the first three weeks of the NFL season, Teddy Bridgewater surgically picked apart opposing defenses in leading the Denver Broncos to their first 3-0 start since 2016.
But last Sunday against the Ravens, the Broncos’ offense wilted after Bridgewater left the game late in the first half with a concussion from a crushing hit just below his chin strap by Baltimore linebacker Odafe Oweh. Bridgewater did not return in the Broncos’ 23-7 loss, Denver’s first defeat of the season.
Still, Bridgewater is expected to start in Week 5 this Sunday when the Broncos travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, according to a report Friday by Mike Klis of Denver-area broadcast network KUSA. Bridgewater still has to clear the requisite concussion testing protocols, although he did participate in practice Thursday.
QB play under the microscope
While Bridgewater has looked impressive early in the season, Ben Roethlisberger has come under a torrent of criticism from Steelers fans. Roethlisberger, a seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback, suffered a left pectoral injury last month in a Week 2 defeat to the Raiders. In two subsequent defeats, Roethlisberger tossed two touchdowns while recording three interceptions.
In coming to the defense of the two-time Super Bowl champion, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin set the record straight that Roethlisberger will remain the team’s starting quarterback. The Steelers have a deep quarterback room with backups Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins. As is the case with most games in the NFL, the team with the steadier quarterback play on Sunday will likely prevail.
Expectations for even play by the quarterbacks in Sunday’s matchup may explain why top books are predicting a close game. At DraftKings, both Bridgewater and Roethlisberger are expected to record under 1.5 touchdowns. There is considerable juice on the under, with the Roethlisberger prop at -130. Bettors will have to pay an ever higher premium on the Bridgewater prop, with odds of -150. As a result, the game total of 39.5 points seems apt.
With Broncos second-year receiver Jerry Jeudy still out, Courtland Sutton has become Bridgewater’s primary target. There are odds of -125 for Sutton to hit the over of 44.5 yards in Week 5.
The Steelers have also been hurting at receiver early in the season. After missing a Week 4 loss to the Packers with an injured hamstring, Steelers receiver Chase Claypool has still been limited by the injury this week. His teammate Diontae Johnson has odds of -115 to record more than 67.5 receiving yards.
Besides FanDuel, numerous top books have installed the Broncos as a slight favorite over Pittsburgh. As of Friday afternoon, Denver stood as a 1-point favorite at DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars Entertainment, and Circa Sports, along with several others.
Despite the loss to the Ravens, the Broncos would still open the season 4-1 with a victory over the Steelers, buoying those who backed the team with futures bets before the start of the season. A number of prominent books set 8.5 as the over/under on the Broncos’ season win total.